President Vladimir Putin has lashed out against the ban on Russian Paralympians from Rio de Janeiro, saying the move is immoral and inhumane.
Speaking to the Russian Olympic team during an award ceremony on Thursday, Putin said the "decision to disqualify our Paralympians is outside the bounds of law, morality and humanity."
"Unfortunately we witnessed how the humanist foundation of sport and Olympism was brazenly violated by politics," the Russian president stressed, noting that "greed and maybe cowardice" had taken precedence over Olympic principles.
Putin congratulated the Russian Olympic team on its "worthy performance" in Rio.
"We know how difficult it was for our athletes in Rio. Ahead of the competition, the team was cut by almost a third, and was deprived of the chance to show what it can do in sports where Russia is traditionally considered one of the favorites. But our team, you, my friends, coped with all the difficulties, competed as a united team."
With Russia’s track and field team banned from this summer’s Olympics over doping allegations, the country still finished fourth in the medal standings, behind the US, the UK and China. Russia won 19 gold, 18 silver and 19 bronze medals.
The Russian president also pledged that special competitions would be organized in Russia for the banned Paralympic athletes "to show all their skills."
At the competitions, "the reward for the champions and winners will be the same as it would have been at the end of the Paralympic Games," Putin said.
The remarks come as the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Tuesday rejected an appeal against a decision to bar all Russian athletes from the Rio Paralympic Games, set to take place September 7-18. The appeal had been filed by the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC).
The country has vowed to keep fighting the suspension it faces over allegations of state-sponsored doping.
Vladimir Lukin, the president of the Russian Paralympic Committee, on Wednesday pledged to press on with legal action in a bid to overturn the decision.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko condemned the decision as “political” and said that Moscow would now contest the decision with the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland in the hope of seeing Russian Paralympians compete in Rio.