Exodus continues from Ukraine NOC over claims of pro-Russian bias

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Former international footballer Oleg Protasov has resigned from the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine (NOCU), the latest to step down because of alleged pro-Russian bias within the organisation.

Protasov, a member of the Soviet Union team that reached the final of the 1988 UEFA European Championships, has joined another former footballer, Andriy Shevchenko, by announcing on his Facebook page that he was stepping down as vice-president of the NOCU.

"Why?" the 58-year-old Protasov, first vice-president of the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF), wrote.

"It has been a week since it became known about the entry of a number of representatives of the pro-Russian opposition into the new composition of the NOCU.

"And only two were expelled from the Committee after widespread public outcry.

Former AC Milan and Chelsea striker Shevchenko, widely regarded as the greatest footballer in Ukraine’s history, had stepped down last Friday (November 18), the day after being elected as NOCU vice-president.

He resigned in protest at the election of Grigory Surkis, the former President of Football Federation of Ukraine widely believed to have close links to Moscow, and Nestor Shufrych, a Ukrainian politician accused of spying for Russia.

They both resigned but current Ukrainian footballer Roman Zozulya then drew attention to several members appointed to the NOCU by newly elected President Vadym Guttsait, Ukraine's Sports Minister, with either pro-Russian links or who had been implicated in corruption.

That led to the resignation of Tokyo 2020 champion wrestler Zhan Beleniuk, who had been defeated in the election by Guttsait.

"Thanks to Roman Zozula for continuing to draw attention to the problem," Protasov wrote on Facebook.

"Andriy Shevchenko would like to take more decisive actions: or a real statement about the termination of the powers of the vice-president of the NOC, as a logical continuation of the post made on social networks."

Protasov played 68 times for the Soviet Union and scored 28 goals, the second best in history, behind another Ukrainian, Oleg Blokhin.

Protasov scored one of the goals in the Soviet Union’s 2-0 semi-final victory over Italy in Stuttgart at Euro 88.

Protasov has urged Guttsait to call another General Assembly for the NOCU to vote on whether the alleged pro-Russian members should be allowed to remain.

Should athletes from Russia and Belarus be allowed to compete under a neutral flag?