MOSCOW • Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who was banned for life from the Olympics this week, said yesterday he was ready to resign over the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision to exclude Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics.
"I'm ready (to resign) at any moment if it is beneficial to someone and needed," the R-Sport news agency quoted Mutko as saying.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday declined to say whether officials involved in organising the Sochi Games, which Russia hosted in 2014, would be punished.
He said such reprimands were not a priority.
Mutko expressed support for some Russians to compete at the Pyeongchang Games under a neutral flag, but slammed the IOC decision as "discriminatory".
"The (Russian) government will support our athletes' decision and will provide all support for preparations," Mutko said.
"We proceed from the fact that the IOC decision is discriminatory. An athlete must compete under their flag."
His comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the country would not boycott the Games.
Russia are perennial Winter Olympics powerhouses. They topped the 2014 Sochi Games medal table with 13 golds.
But Russia have since been stripped of 11 of their 33 medals won on home soil for cheating, losing pole position to Norway.
South Korea yesterday voiced regret over the IOC decision, saying the participation of Russian athletes was crucial to the success of the event.
The South Korean sports ministry urged Russian athletes to compete as neutrals, saying in a statement it had "worked hard over the past seven years to make meticulous preparations" for a peaceful and harmonious Games.
"The participation of winter sports athletes from around the world, including Russia, is the key to the success of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and a crucial factor in realising the Olympic spirit," said the ministry responsible for preparing the Games.
The presence of Russian athletes "who have shown outstanding performance in the many previous Winter Games, would make significant contributions to the success of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games".
In the weeks ahead of the IOC verdict, more than 20 Russian athletes who competed at the Sochi Games were handed Olympic life bans for having allegedly violated anti-doping rules.
The Kremlin has continued to deny any culpability in relation to allegations of state-sponsored doping.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS