Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Ukraine sporting great Sergey Bubka urges nation to end violence

updated 12:22 PM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
  • Sergey Bubka tells CNN he wants the violence in Ukraine to stop
  • Former Olympic champion wants government and protesters to "start dialogue again"
  • CNN told at least 100 people have died and 500 injured since Thursday morning
  • Two members of Ukraine Winter Olympics team withdraw from Sochi Games

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- The violence and bloodshed on the streets of Kiev has left Ukraine on the "brink of catastrophe," according to one of the nation's most famous sons.

Sergey Bubka, a man known across the world for his record-breaking exploits as a pole vault champion, has been left shellshocked by the scenes in his home country.

From Sochi, where he is trying to salvage the spirit of Ukraine's athletes at the Winter Olympics, Bubka has watched on in horror as anti-government protestors clash with police.

"I couldn't believe that has happened in my country," the 50-year-old, who is head of Ukraine's Olympic Committee, told CNN in Sochi Thursday.

"Ukraine is so nice and the country is beautiful. We are kind, we are friendly and have shown outstanding hospitality in many events.

"In this moment, I cannot believe it. We cannot go against each other. We need to understand each other.

"We must listen. We must go back to dialogue, save the peace, save our Ukraine and save our nation. "

Read: What's behind Ukraine's political crisis?

A fragile truce crumbled Thursday as gunfire erupted at Independence Square, where the anti-government protests have been taking place.

The head of the protesters' medical service told CNN that at least 100 people have died and 500 were injured.

The Ukrainian government has not released an updated figure, but the interior ministry said earlier that one police officer was among the dead.

"The reaction is really shocking," added Bubka. "It's difficult to say something because we love our country and our people.

"We saw some moves to take the situation in a better direction but then suddenly the real violence started.

"We're really sad at what has happened and our team has expressed condolences to the victims who died. We want both parties to settle down and stop this.

"We have to try to start the dialogue again because we would love to see peace."

Read: Ukraine protests turn violent

The pictures being broadcast across the world have led to shock and condemnation with Bubka and the nation's athletes struggling to come to terms with the events.

Also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Bubka held a meeting with his country's 43 athletes in Sochi.

The team held a minute's silence instead of wearing black armbands following discussions between the team and the IOC.

However, two members of the team withdrew Thursday in a show of solidarity with the protesters in Kiev.

New violence in Ukraine, 20 dead
'I am a Ukrainian'
Gunfire heard in Kiev, protesters fall

Alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska and her father and coach, Oleh Matsotskyy, made a joint announcement on Facebook.

"As members of Ukraine's national Olympic team, we are extremely indignant at latest actions by President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, who has drenched Ukrainians' last hopes in blood instead of resolving the conflict with Maidan (anti-government protesters) through negotiations, which we had hoped he would when we left for Sochi," they said.

"This was the violation of the old principle of the Games -- the Olympic Truce. In solidarity with fighters on the Maidan barricades and as a protest against lawless actions made towards protesters, the lack of responsibility from the side of the president and his lackey government, we refuse further performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games."

Read: Bubka says Olympics can save a generation

Bubka, who spoke with both athlete and coach before their decision was announced, admits that "it is not an easy time to compete."

But he is adamant that Ukraine can be brought together by success in Sochi and through "sporting and Olympic values."

Bubka, who won gold at the 1988 Summer Games, has put his hopes in the women's biathlon team which has a great chance of a medal in Friday's 4x6 km relay.

"We need this," he said. "We need this and we pray for that.

"We discuss with them to give them confidence and eliminate pressure from sport and situation at home.

"We tell them we love them and believe in them. 'Do what you do every time. It's your time and it's your day. We need this.'

"We want to show to everyone that Ukraine exists and is united through sport and Olympics."

Earlier this month Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie broke Bubka's 21-year-old pole vault world record with a 6.16-meter leap in the Ukrainian's home city of Donetsk.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:05 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
With the Olympic cauldron now extinguished, CNN takes a look at whether Russia's $50 billion Sochi budget was money well spent.
updated 9:40 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
The athletes on show in Sochi provided moments of drama and destiny that captured the imagination and settled in the collective memory.
updated 11:15 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Russia may have topped the medals table at the first Winter Olympics it staged, but which country was most successful per capita?
updated 11:48 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
From eye-popping helmet designs to F1-influenced bobsleigh, the Sochi offered a bewildering array of technological innovation.
updated 6:46 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Sochi's closing ceremony took an artistic look at Russian culture before the Olympic flag was handed over to South Korea for the 2018 Games.
updated 1:57 PM EST, Sun February 23, 2014
Critics say it would have been cheaper to coat this Russian road with caviar but will the route made for Sochi reap long-term rewards?
updated 7:06 AM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
Navigate your way around this spectacular 360-degree picture from Sochi's ski-jumping venue at the Winter Olympics -- and find out how it was created.
updated 5:45 AM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
Sochi's transformation has left even the local cab drivers a bit lost and confused -- but don't let that put you off visiting this rejuvenated Black Sea resort.
updated 12:59 PM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Australia's silver medalist Torah Bright celebrates during the Women's Snowboard Halfpipe Medal Ceremony at the Sochi medals plaza during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 13, 2014.
What do you get if you mix Valentine's Day, thousands of good-looking young Olympians and a popular online dating app?
updated 7:11 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
For a Winter Olympics, there are some very colorful characters from some very tropical climates taking part -- including this "Mariachi" skier.
updated 6:03 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
If snowboarders were an introduction to a younger, hipper, "slacker" generation of Olympians, the next wave has taken it to another level.
updated 6:52 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
He didn't like carpets, he banned portraits and he walked in water rather than swim. Welcome to Joseph Stalin's dacha.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
ebanon's Jackie Chamoun skis during the Women's Giant slalom first run at the 2013 Ski World Championships in Schladming, Austria on February 14, 2013.
Like most skiers in Sochi, Jacky Chamoun had hoped to cause a stir on the slopes rather than off them.
updated 5:14 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
A prop from the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
It has been dubbed Russia's Las Vegas. But has Sochi's massive renovation come at a cost to the region's stunning natural environment?
updated 12:33 PM EST, Sun February 23, 2014
Take a different look at Sochi 2014 as CNN showcases the most compelling images from the world's best photographers.