Russian and Belarusian players barred from competing at Wimbledon tennis tournament
Wimbledon organizers announced on Wednesday that Russian and Belarusian players will not be allowed to compete at this year's grand slam following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible," the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said in a statement.
"In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.
"It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022," it added.
The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday that a ban on Russian players taking part at Wimbledon as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "unacceptable."
Government spokesman Dmitry Peskov was responding to a question concerning the barring of Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament which was reported by The New York Times, before AELTC officially made its statement.
"Making athletes victims of some kind of political prejudices, intrigues, hostile actions towards our country, is unacceptable. One can only express regret here," Peskov told a conference call with reporters.
"Considering that Russia is after all a very strong tennis country, our tennis players are in the top lines of the world ranking, the competition itself will suffer from their removal.
"I would like to wish the guys to do everything in order not to lose shape and not lose their world tennis class."
The ban on Russian players will prevent several high ranked players from competing at the iconic grass court grand slam.
Four Russian men, including world number two and reigning U.S Open Champion Daniil Medvedev, are currently ranked in the top 30 of the ATP Tour.
Russia has five women in the top 40 of the WTA Tour rankings.
Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka is currently ranked fourth in the world and was a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year whilst compatriot Victoria Azarenka, a former world no.1, is currently ranked No. 18.
The AELTC's decision is the first time Russian and Belarusian players have been prohibited from competing in an elite tennis event.
Tennis governing bodies had banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion.
However, individual players are allowed to compete on the ATP and WTA Tours but not under the name or flag of their countries.
"We believe that today's unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year's British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game," said the ATP in a statement.
"Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings.
"Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils."