The Ukrainian sports minister barred the country's Olympic athletes from talking to Russian media throughout the entire games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP) Friday.
The announcement comes amid increasing tensions between the two neighboring countries. Relations between the two nations have been frozen since fighting broke out in 2014 between Russian-back separatists and the Ukrainian government, a conflict that has killed more than 9,400 people and seen Russia annex Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
“The team has been given very clear instructions to avoid all contact with the Russian media. They have been warned more than once,” Sports Minister Igor Zhdanov wrote on his Facebook page, via the Moscow Times. The Facebook post was reportedly a direct response to a report on Russian state TV in which Ukrainian Olympians talked as they traveled to Brazil. They were asked about Russia's massive doping scandal that barred 118 athletes, including the entire track and field team, from participating in the games.
Zhdanov wrote that a "tough talk" was had with the team about not talking with Russian media and that he was unhappy to see athletes criticizing the International Olympic Committee's decision regarding Russia's athletes, according to AFP.
Ukrainian runner Nataliya Pogrebnyak especially made waves with her comments on Russian television. "It is not fair to see members of the U.S. team who served their sentence [for doping] participate at the Games, but the Russian players without a history [of doping] not being able to do the same," she said, via AFP.
The comments come as tensions between Russia and Ukraine have recently ratcheted up amid an increase in violence between Ukrainian forces and the Russia-backed rebels. Neither side has fully complied with a ceasefire from February 2015. Rebels recently warned of a return to full-scale fighting if Ukrainian forces did not back off of the contact line. Over the past couple of months, violence in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions has risen to its highest levels in a years, Newsweek reported.