Finnish Olympic Committee President Jan Vapaavouri insists that the strict line on Russia and Belarus has been prompted by initiatives from individual nations ©Getty Images

Finnish Olympic Committee President Jan Vapaavuori has claimed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been "confusingly pro-Russia" since the invasion of Ukraine, but feels athletes from Russia and Belarus will still be prevented from appearing Paris 2024.

In March, Finland cancelled an International Fencing Federation (FIE) event in Turku after the FIE voted to allow the return of Russian and Belarus fencers.

The IOC has condemned the Russian invasion, but the organisation has also insisted on a policy of strict political neutrality.

"I'm still optimistic that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be kept out of Paris," Vapaavuori told Finnish newspaper llta Sanomat.

"The Finnish Olympic Committee pursues a strict line in relation to Russia and Belarus, the fact that even such strict measures against Russia and Belarus have been achieved is partly a result of the fact that individual countries, National Olympic committees, sports federations and European ministers have created pressure so that a strict line has been achieved.

Perhaps I could say in general that the IOC as an organisation and its office in Lausanne has been confusingly pro-Russia throughout the war.

Under the latest IOC recommendations, International Federations were advised that they could admit competitors from Belarus and Russia, provided that they did not support the war or had affiliations with the security forces or armed forces.

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin is one of many officials to call for athletes to use their own flag at sporting events ©Getty Images
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin is one of many officials to call for athletes to use their own flag at sporting events ©Getty Images

"It is true that the international sports federations have the mandate to decide on the qualifications, but on the other hand, the IOC set such strict conditions in its recommendations that it has reduced the risk," Vapaavouri admitted.

"The situation is unclear, it is open and there are varied practices in different sports, on the other hand, there are clear signs that Russia itself feels that the conditions are so strict that it itself does not want to participate."

A number of prominent Russian officials and athletes have been reported as unwilling to accept conditions such as a neutral flag and anthems, including Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin and Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov.

In April, Finland formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and are also members of the European Union.

The country's National Olympic Committee was founded in 1907, when Finland was still part of the Greater Russian Empire, though their athletes insisted on parading with their own flag at Olympic Games, some distance behind Russian competitors.

Later in 1939, when Helsinki were due to host the Games, the Soviets launched an invasion of the Karelia region of the country.

Finns claimed that many sporting facilities were shelled during the fighting, an indication that relations between the two countries have often been tense.