Vladimir Putin to Russian athletes: Ignore doping scandals at Winter Olympics

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While the athletes wore their IOC-approved "neutral" uniforms without the Russian flag - gray for men, red for women - the event was full of patriotic gestures.

"I regret that more than half the national speedskating team did not receive invitations to the Olympics, including my partners in the team pursuit, who I don't doubt are clean".

Putin suggested that sports have become mixed up with politics and apologised for not being able to shield the athletes from that.

In a message sent over a cross-border communication channel, South Korea demanded the North fulfill mutual agreements over a set of conciliatory gestures to mark the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

Russian Federation was left with only three eligible women's speedskaters, including Graf.

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The IOC has been criticized by some Russian sports officials in recent weeks after ruling that some top medal hopes didn't pass its vetting process.

"I'm happy that the International Olympic Committee commission declared me a clean athlete, which I am, but I am saddened that more than half of our national speedskating team didn't get invited to the Olympics, and I don't doubt they are also clean", Graf wrote.

"In that case, what are we fighting with?" As only four of Russia's speed skaters have been allowed to compete - including Graf - Russia will be unable to form pursuit teams.

Graf, who won two bronze medals in Sochi in the 3,000 metres and in the team event, said she was forced to decline the International Olympic Committee invitation to Pyeongchang because she had hoped to win a medal in the pursuit. "For a host country to display cultural power and successfully launch cultural Olympic events in the run up to the Winter Games, public interest is crucial", said Kim Tae-wook, general art director for the Cultural Olympiad.

"In this situation, where North and South Korea have taken their first step towards improving relations, agreements should be upheld out of mutual respect and understanding", the ministry said.

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