World Aquatics said it has established a task force to explore the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition as neutrals, adding that it supports the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) stance on the matter.

The IOC issued recommendations last week for athletes from Russia and Belarus to return to international competition since their ban last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special military operation".

Table tennis, fencing, judo and taekwondo are among the Olympic sports which have readmitted athletes from the two countries as neutrals.

"The World Aquatics Bureau approved the establishment of a task force to explore a potential pathway for athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport to participate in future international aquatics events as individual neutral athletes," the body said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The task force, made up of athletes and representatives from across the aquatics community ... will begin work immediately on developing a recommendation to the World Aquatics Bureau.

"... the task force will need to take time to come to its conclusions, and will report back at the next Bureau meeting in July 2023."

World Aquatics stripped Kazan of hosting rights for the short-course world swimming championships last year, with Melbourne stepping in to stage the event.

Kazan was also replaced by Singapore as host of the World Aquatics Championships in 2025.

In 2022, World Aquatics handed Olympic gold medallist Evgeny Rylov a nine-month suspension for attending a rally in support of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine, and banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from last year's world championships in Budapest.

"The World Aquatics Bureau's decision to not invite athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus to World Aquatics events remains in effect today," the governing body said.

This year's world swimming championships are scheduled to take place in Fukuoka, Japan from July 14-30.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)