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Russian IOC members not to blame for Ukraine war says IOC's Bach

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach Reuters

Not all Russians should be blamed for their government's decision to invade Ukraine and that includes Russian members of the International Olympic Committee, IOC president Thomas Bach said on Friday, defending his decision not to sanction them.

The IOC has called on international federations to move events from Russia and ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from competitions.

It has, however, not sanctioned or banned Russian members who sit on the IOC from taking part in Olympic meetings despite widespread calls to do so and has also not sanctioned the Russian Olympic Committee.

"There is no justice if you paint everyone with the same brush," Bach said in his speech to the IOC session.

"This would even be counter-productive because it would play into the propaganda of those who claim that sanctions are just a part of a wider conspiracy directed against their country."

Russia, host of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, currently has two IOC members with former pole vault Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva and Shamil Tarpishchev both eligible to take part in Friday's virtual session.

Long-time former member Vitaly Smirnov is an honorary IOC member. Former Russian Olympic Committee chief Alexander Zhukov is currently the State Duma's First Deputy Chairman.

"This war has not been started by the Russian people, the Russian athletes, the Russian Olympic Committee or the IOC members in Russia," Bach said.

The IOC has said its members from Russia were not representatives of their country in the IOC but rather representatives of the IOC in their country.

It also said calling for a ban of Russian and Belarusian athletes was a protective measure and not a sanction.

"These are protective measures – not sanctions – measures to protect the integrity of competitions," Bach said.

"The safety of the Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials could not be guaranteed because of the deep anti-Russian and anti-Belarusian feelings in so many countries following the invasion."

Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation".