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‘The murder of our national sport’: Russian athletes forced to compete under neutral flag

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Russian athletes are bitterly disappointment by the collective punishment and the option offered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which banned the Russian national team, while allowing only individual athletes to compete under a neutral flag and anthem.

Related Story : IOC bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics

On Tuesday, the IOC declared Russia guilty of alleged state-sponsored doping, and banned the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) from competing in the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Athletes who can prove they are “clean,” however, will be allowed to compete, but not under the Russian flag.

The despair and bitter disappointment were clearly visible on the faces of Russian Olympic athletes in Davos Tuesday as the IOC announced their decision. Some stared down and others left the room soon after the directives were read out.

Those who can compete are now faced with a difficult choice. On the one hand, they spent years polishing their skills to perform on the world’s premier stage, but on the other hand, their sport spirit dictates they compete as a united national team, under the Russian flag.

Irina Avvakumova, a member of the ski jumping team, does not want to go to South Korea and perform under a neutral flag. “I do not know how other athletes will react, but I did not prepare for so many years to just go and compete without representing my country,” Avvakumova said, adding, that competing as neutral lack the “sports spirit.”

Russian snowboarder Nikolai Olyunin has not yet decided whether or not he is ready to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games under a neutral flag.

“The decision of the IOC did not shock me, it was all leading to this. We were ready,” Olyunin said, adding, that the snowboard federation will now wait and see how the situation develops further. “No one understands how to proceed further. I would like to compete for our flag, but at the same time, I understand that what has happened is a great disrespect to our country. I don’t want to compete under a neutral flag, but I still have to think about it.”

Russia

Russia’s Putin sworn in for another six years in office

The Russian constitution bars him from running again when his new terms ends in 2024.

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Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin was sworn in for another six years as Russian president on Monday.

Standing in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s ornately-decorated Andreyevsky Hall with his hand on a gold-embossed copy of the constitution, Putin swore to serve the Russian people, safeguard their rights and freedoms, and defend Russian sovereignty.

Putin was inaugurated for his fourth term as president two months after more than 70 per cent of voters backed him in a presidential election in which he had no serious challengers.

His most dangerous opponent, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running in that vote and on Saturday Navalny and hundreds of his supporters were detained by police while protesting over Putin’s new term under the slogan: “Putin is not our tsar”.

Putin, who is 65, embarks on his fourth term in office buoyed by widespread popular support but weighed down by a costly confrontation with the West, a fragile economy and uncertainty about what happens when his term ends.

The Russian constitution bars him from running again when his new terms ends in 2024.

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Middle East

Putin warns against further actions violating UN charter

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Vladimir Putin

Moscow, April 16 : Further actions violating the UN charter such as the recent US-led strikes on Syria will result in chaos in international relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over phone on Sunday.

The two leaders condemned Saturday’s airstrikes by the US and its allies on Syria and agreed that it would hinder the process of a political settlement in the war-torn country, according to a Kremlin statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

“It was stated that this illegal action seriously damages the prospects for a political settlement in Syria. Putin in particular stressed that if such actions, carried out in violation of the UN Charter, continue, it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the statement read.

The US, together with Britain and France, launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday, saying that it was in response to an alleged chemical weapon attack by the Syrian military. The Syrian government has categorically denied the accusation.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the same day held an emergency meeting over the missile attack at Russia’s request but failed to approve a resolution condemning the bombardment.

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Russia

New US sanctions rattle Russian stock market, ruble

One of the targets of the new round of US sanctions is Russia’s aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska and his Rusal company, the world’s major primary aluminum producer.

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Russian stock market

Moscow, April 9 : New US sanctions imposed on major Russian businesses and their owners sent Russian stocks and the ruble, the country’s currency, sharply down on Monday, exchange data showed.

Russia’s benchmark RTS stock index was down 11.33 per cent at 04:20 p.m. According to data from Moscow Exchange, the ruble was at 59.11 against the dollar, down from $57.88 on Friday, after several months of relative stability, Xinhua reported.

The US Treasury announced on Friday it had imposed new sanctions on 38 Russian individuals and entities, including seven business leaders and 17 senior officials, for their alleged “malign activity” around the world.

As a result of the punishment, all assets of the designated persons and entities that are subject to US jurisdiction are frozen, and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

One of the targets of the new round of US sanctions is Russia’s aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska and his Rusal company, the world’s major primary aluminum producer.

On Friday, Rusal issued a statement warning that the new sanctions may result in technical defaults, which pushed its stock down by nearly 50 per cent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday. In Moscow its shares fell by more than 25 per cent by Monday afternoon.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a meeting with his deputies on Monday that the new sanctions were aimed at “promoting American commercial interests around the world in defiance of the current trade rules, contrary to the established order”.

“Of course, these decisions are unacceptable, and we consider them illegitimate, since they are generally outside the domain of international law,” Medvedev said, according to an official transcript of his remarks.

He said Russia reserved the right to respond, “including within existing trade agreements and procedures.”

Medvedev also asked the government to work out proposals on providing support to companies affected by the sanctions, including those in the metals, energy and defense sectors, as well as efficient measures in response to the US move.

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