Putin says Russian Federation won't prevent athletes from competing in Pyeongchang

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Mutko's comments came hours after President Vladimir Putin said Russian Federation would not prevent its athletes from competing in South Korea as neutrals.

The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea over a state-orchestrated doping programme, saying clean Russian athletes would be allowed to compete under the Olympic flag. But Mutko said that the interests of Russia's athletes were his top concern.

"For the athletes who will gather in Pyeongchang for the Olympic Winter Games, this resolution will carry a special significance, a deeply personal one", said IOC President Thomas Bach.

But in his first comments after the International Olympic Committee decision, Mr. Putin said: "We will not be announcing any kind of blockade".

Putin said that taking those thoughts into consideration, the authorities will "definitely not impede anybody or ban anyone, or create conditions for their participation to become impossible".

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In the weeks ahead of Tuesday's IOC decision, more than 20 Russian athletes who competed at the Sochi Games were handed Olympic life bans for having allegedly violated anti-doping rules. Russia's "partly to blame" for the situation it's in, though the Olympic ruling was still "politically motivated", he said, according to the Interfax news service.

Addressing the strained relations and their impact on the Olympics, Ms. Haley said the Trump administration would try to "find out the best way" to protect American athletes participating in the Games.

Answering a question about uncertainty surrounding the participation of USA athletes in the global sports event held on the Korean Peninsula, she said Washington would continue monitoring the situation in the region in order to ensure protection of its athletes.

Putin, who often uses Russia's Olympic tradition as an example of the country's greatness and showers medalists with luxury cars and cash, had earlier said that competing under a flag other than Russia's would be "humiliating".

"So there are still more questions than answers and they all need to clarified".

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