Russia must not “boycott” the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin assured Wednesday, despite the restrictions imposed on the participation of its athletes (who will compete under a neutral banner, without a national anthem on the podiums notably) in reaction to the offensive in Ukraine.

“We must not turn away, close ourselves off, boycott this movement,” the minister said during a meeting, referring to next summer’s Olympics, according to the state agency Tass. “We must, as much as possible, preserve the possibility of dialogue and participation in competitions,” he said.

At the beginning of December, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) authorized Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paris Games (July 26-August 11) on the condition that they compete under a neutral banner, excluding team events, and that they do not have not actively supported the Russian offensive in Ukraine and that they have cleared the qualification hurdle. Russia, which has repeatedly denounced these criteria which it considers “humiliating” and Russophobic, has not formally recommended or not to its athletes to go to Paris. Minister Oleg Matytsin said he was waiting for the next IOC meeting on March 18 and 19.

“We will see what the final decision of the International Olympic Committee will be (…) but so far the position is that there will be no new recommendations and regulations,” he said. In December, President Vladimir Putin estimated that the IOC risked “burying the Olympic movement” by imposing the neutral banner on Russian and Belarusian athletes. Even before its offensive against Ukraine, Russia saw its participation in the Olympics limited due to a series of state doping scandals that discredited a large number of Russian athletes and officials. Despite overwhelming evidence, the Kremlin has denied any organized doping system and here too described the sanctions as anti-Russian punitive measures.