Russian and Belarusian athletes allowed to compete at Winter Paralympics

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete at the Winter Paralympics, it has been decided, despite the deadly invasion of Ukraine.

The International Paralympic Committee said athletes from both Russia and Belarus will be able to take part in the contest - which starts on Friday - but they will not be allowed to represent their countries.

They will be forced to compete under the Paralympic flag and the Paralympic anthem will be played, instead of their own. They will also not be included in the medals table.

Both countries will also have their flags and symbols covered in all official ceremonies and sporting competitions, the IPC said.

It added that it will not hold any events in Russia or Belarus until further notice and the Paralympic honour given to Vladimir Putin had been withdrawn over his attack on Ukraine.

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said she was "extremely disappointed" by the IPC decision and called on them to "urgently reconsider".

"They must join the rest of the world in condemning this barbaric invasion by banning Russian and Belarussian athletes from competing," she said.

The decision was made following a meeting of the IPC board on Wednesday morning, in which the group "expressed its concerns and sympathies for Ukrainian athletes and citizens alike".

The IPC also "shared its delight that the full delegation of the Ukrainian Paralympic Team arrived safely in Beijing earlier today" after reports the team was late to arrive.

Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “The IPC and wider Paralympic Movement is greatly concerned by the gross violation of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarussian governments in the days prior to the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.  

"The IPC Governing Board is united in its condemnation of these actions and was in agreement that they cannot go unnoticed or unaddressed."

He added: "What we have decided upon is the harshest possible punishment we can hand down within our constitution and the current IPC rules."