Ukrainian diver joins boycott of events with Russians as war takes its toll


March 31 (Reuters) - Ukraine's Stanislav Oliferchuk has been training in Kyiv since the swimming pool in Mariupol was hit by a missile, and the country's diving champion has vowed to boycott international events which feature Russians or Belarusians.

Oliferchuk had been eagerly awaiting the reopening of Neptun swimming pool in Mariupol, which underwent two years of costly, major restoration. The revamped facility was set to reopen early last year.

However, it is one of nearly 350 sports facilities in Ukraine that now lies in ruins after Russia's invasion, which Moscow calls a "special military operation".

"The swimming pool was just incredible, I really enjoyed training there after it was renovated. It is very sad that the swimming pool as well the rest of the city was destroyed," Oliferchuk told Reuters.

"(Now) when there is an air raid alert, we - in swimming suits – rush straight to the bomb shelter to take cover. No one knows what will be hit while they (Russians) can train and they're not worried about anything.

"They keep silent and accept what's going on and it's alright for them. No way Russians should be allowed to take part in the competitions - if it happens, we will boycott."

Ukrainian government minister Oleh Nemchinov said their athletes will not be allowed to take part in qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Olympics if they have to compete against Russians.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued recommendations on Tuesday for the gradual return to international competition for Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals.

"If Russian athletes are allowed to take part in the competitions, I will not take part," diving coach Anatolii Holovan said.

"I will not take part as a referee either if I am asked to be a referee at the World Championship."

While some international sports federations have prevented Russians or Belarusians from competing in elite events, others such as tennis and fencing which have allowed them to participate.

On Friday, Wimbledon lifted its ban on players from the two countries.

Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands when she defeated Russian Varvara Gracheva to win her first singles title in Austin earlier this month but Holovan said that may not be enough.

"Yes, there is an option not to shake hands. But we will see each other anyway – in sports venues, dressing rooms, showers," Holovan added.

"I don't know how is it even possible to look into their eyes."

Reporting by Anna Voitenko in Kyiv, Writing by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru Editing by Toby Davis

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