• Kremlin rejects talk of boycotting the Olympics _ for now

    Updated:
    MOSCOW (AP) - The Kremlin dismissed talk of an Olympic boycott on Wednesday despite some of Russia's top athletes being barred from competing at the Pyeongchang Games.

    Several of the country's top medal hopes, including six-time short-track speedskating gold medalist Viktor Ahn, were barred from next month's games amid the country's ongoing doping scandal, which has already forced Russia to compete under a neutral flag.

    Asked whether the Kremlin might consider a boycott in light of the new restrictions, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said "right now it is important to avoid words like 'boycott.'"

    Peskov said the Russian government is going to focus on communicating with the International Olympic Committee to defend its athletes.

    The IOC is vetting Russian athletes before issuing invitations for them to compete in Pyeongchang.

    The Russian Hockey Federation said Wednesday its women's team had been allowed to compete, though one player, forward Lyudmila Belyakova, was refused.

    The Russian women's hockey team was disqualified from the 2014 Olympics for involvement in doping and cover-ups. Nine players were banned from the Olympics for life.

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