IOC President Thomas Bach attends a meeting of the IOC. GETTY IMAGES. GETTY IMAGES

Athletes who respect IOC conditions 'welcome' in Paris, says Bach. Asked about the case of Russian athletes, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Saturday that all athletes "willing to respect the conditions" set by the International Olympic Committee would be "welcome" at the Paris Olympics.

On Wednesday, Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said his country should not "boycott" the Olympics, despite restrictions on its athletes' participation following the offensive in Ukraine. "We have so many contradictory messages coming from Russia that I am not going to comment on all the opinions expressed," Thomas Bach replied on Saturday when asked about Oleg Matytsin's comments.

"What we fear (...) is that there will be increasingly aggressive statements from Russia and the Russian government. So we will see what happens," continued the IOC President, who is in Chamonix, France, for the centenary celebrations of the first Winter Olympics.

"We have set conditions. These conditions will not change: those who are prepared to respect them are welcome in Paris. Those who are not prepared to respect them are not welcome," concluded Bach in the presence of Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, the French Minister for Sport and the Olympic Games.

The IOC is demanding that Russian and Belarusian athletes compete under a neutral flag at the upcoming Paris Olympics (26 July-11 August). The neutral flag was introduced at Barcelona 1992 for Serbs and Montenegrins affected by international sanctions.

Those athletes question can only take part on an individual basis, effectively banning any demonstration of Russian sporting prowess in team events. They must not have actively supported the Russian offensive in Ukraine, a point that has been double-checked by international federations and then the IOC. Russia has consistently described the treatment reserved for its athletes as "humiliating" and "discriminatory".

"We must not deviate, close ourselves off or boycott this movement," Minister Oleg Matytsin said at a meeting on Wednesday, referring to the upcoming European Summer Olympics, according to state news agency Tass, adding: "As far as possible, we must preserve the possibility of dialogue and participation in the competitions."

According to AFP, the Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin ruled out expecting any flexibility from the IOC when its executive board meets next week. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said last week that Russian and Belarusian Paralympic athletes would not take part in the opening ceremony. However, the sports minister added that he was "waiting for the next meeting of the IOC Executive Commission from 19 to 21 March".

"We will never go down the path of boycotting (the Games). We will always support our athletes, but we stress that the conditions set by the IOC are illegitimate, unfair and unacceptable," said Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the former Olympic fencer who heads the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), in comments carried by Russian state news agency RIA.