Ukraine’s fencing federation (NFFU) has decided to boycott international competitions that include Russians and Belarusians. The decision comes amid a controversy over whether athletes from the two countries should be allowed to participate in next year’s Olympics. Russians and Belarusians have been banned from most elite international sporting competitions since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, in what Moscow calls a “special military operation.” However, fencers from Russia and Belarus were cleared to return to international events at the fencing global federation’s (FIE) Extraordinary Congress on March 10, days before the window for 2024 Paris Olympic qualifying opened. Ukraine’s fencing federation (NFFU) president Mykhailo Illiashev said that the Russian and Belarusian fencers that take part in these competitions are mostly servicemen enlisted by the Russian army. He added that fencing’s rules meant Ukrainian athletes would be forced to shake hands with any Russian or Belarusian opponents they faced. Ukrainian fencer and Olympic hopeful Olha Sopit criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIE’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris next year, calling it “completely inappropriate.” Sopit expressed her disgust at the thought of competing with those who kill Ukrainian people and invade their land. Ukraine’s war with Russia has destroyed 343 sports facilities in the country, leaving an estimated 140,000 young athletes without places to train, according to data collected by international athlete-led organisation Global Athlete. Ukrainian fencing coach and former Olympian Olha Leleiko said that they would continue training and look for other ways to oppose the FIE’s decision, while also looking for competitions in which Russian athletes do not participate.