Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Ukraine Paralympic chief: 'We stay in Russia to promote peace'

March 7, 2014 -- Updated 2110 GMT (0510 HKT)
Fireworks explode over Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday, March 7, at the end of the opening ceremony for the Winter Paralympic Games. The Paralympics are in Sochi, Russia, like the recently completed Winter Olympic Games. Fireworks explode over Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday, March 7, at the end of the opening ceremony for the Winter Paralympic Games. The Paralympics are in Sochi, Russia, like the recently completed Winter Olympic Games.
HIDE CAPTION
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ukraine will compete in the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi
  • A 23-strong team representing Ukraine will take part in the Games
  • Ukraine Paralympic chief Valeriy Suskevich wants to promote a message of peace
  • The 2014 Paralympic Winter Games get under way on Friday

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- Ukraine will compete at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games in Russia in order to promote peace between the two nations, the head of its Paralympic Committee said, although only one of the country's athletes attended Friday's opening ceremony.

Relations have disintegrated following the overthrow of the Russia-friendly government in Kiev, prompting a rise in tensions in the disputed Crimea region.

Ukrainian officials and Western diplomats have accused President Vladimir Putin of sending thousands of troops to Crimea in the past week -- a claim Russia denies.

It had sparked fears Ukraine would boycott the 2014 Paralympic Games, which run from March 7-16, but the 23-strong team will now compete under its own flag.

Read: Platini backs Russia's right to play in World Cup

Ukrainian tanks are transported from their base in Perevalne, Crimea, on Wednesday, March 26. After Russian troops seized most of Ukraine's bases in Crimea, interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered the withdrawal of armed forces from the peninsula, citing Russian threats to the lives of military staff and their families. Ukrainian tanks are transported from their base in Perevalne, Crimea, on Wednesday, March 26. After Russian troops seized most of Ukraine's bases in Crimea, interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered the withdrawal of armed forces from the peninsula, citing Russian threats to the lives of military staff and their families.
Crisis in Ukraine
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Crisis in Ukraine Photos: Crisis in Ukraine
U.S. Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann is determined the fifth anniversary of the accident that paralyzed her won't become a morbid or sad day. Aside from her swimming success -- the 23-year-old currently holds 15 world records -- she has set herself a series of challenges to overcome in that time.
U.S. Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann is determined the fifth anniversary of the accident that paralyzed her won't become a morbid or sad day. Aside from her swimming success -- the 23-year-old currently holds 15 world records -- she has set herself a series of challenges to overcome in that time.
Weggemann's world
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
Rebuilding piste by piste Rebuilding piste by piste
Austrian skier Matthias Lanzinger is targeting gold in the Paralympics at Sochi. His journey to the Winter Olympics has been nothing short of remarkable... Austrian skier Matthias Lanzinger is targeting gold in the Paralympics at Sochi. His journey to the Winter Olympics has been nothing short of remarkable...
Back from the brink
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
Lanzinger back from the brink Lanzinger back from the brink

"We are staying in order to be remembered, for Ukraine to be remembered as the state which sent a unified team," Ukraine Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Suskevich told reporters in Sochi.

"We've taken the decision to raise the flag of independent sovereign state of Ukraine here at the Paralympic Games."

Ukraine's sole representative at the opening ceremony in the Fisht Olympic stadium was Nordic skier and flag-bearer Mykailo Tkachenko. The rest of the team stayed away in protest, Ukrainian Minister of Sports and Youth, Dmitriy Bulatov, said via Facebook.

"This is how our team expresses protest against aggressors and occupants entering our land," Bulatov said.

Suskevich urged competitors not to do anything that could further increase tensions between Russia and Ukraine, while also revealing he had spoken with Putin.

"I reiterated to Putin my request for peace during the Paralympic Games," he said. "I hope I have been heard by the president of Russia.

"Do just one thing -- don't let us start a war during the Paralympic Games. We want peace. The athletes have a right to have the Paralympic Games under peaceful conditions.

"I am praying to god so that the Paralympic Games must keep peace in Europe, and my home of Ukraine.

"I could have talked at length to the president of Russia about Crimea. I could have talked a lot about conflict, I didn't have time. I realize there is exclusivity in meeting the president of Russia.

"I reiterated for Mr. Putin, emphasizing one request, that during the Paralympic Games we would have peace."

Vitali Klitschko: Ukraine has huge potential
Amputee skier is ready for the Olympics

Read: Crisis in Ukraine

Should the military conflict deepen, however, Suskevich said Ukraine would withdraw from the Paralympics.

"I declare should this happen we will leave the Games," he said. "We cannot possibly stay here in this case.

"This is what we are afraid of. This is what we are opposing and we do not want to take place. I hope my message has been heard, I hope I have been heard by the president of Russia."

Ukraine's decision to remain in Sochi and participate in the Games was welcomed by International Paralympic Committee (IPC) chairman Philip Craven.

"We are delighted as we want sport to prevail and a full complement of teams to compete in what we are confident will be a fantastic Paralympic Winter Games," Craven said in a statement.

"All week the IPC has been working closely with the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee in an effort to keep them here in Sochi.

"The talking point of Sochi 2014 needs to be great sport and great athletes, not global politics.

"We want all the athletes who have trained for years to reach these Games to fully focus on events on the field as opposed to off.

"Now that a decision has been taken I hope this will be the case and the athletes and the sport will take center stage and the headlines they deserve."

Ukraine will have 21 athletes competing in the para-Nordic/biathlon events, and the other two in para-alpine skiing and snowboard disciplines.

It won 19 medals, five of them gold, at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics.

Only one athlete was present at the press conference, with 25-year-old biathlete Grygorii Vovchynski passionate about the chance to represent Ukraine in Sochi.

"You ask me if we are ready to compete? Yes, with the strongest desire," he said.

"We are ready to compete, ready to fight for Ukraine, ready to demonstrate we are a strong and free, independent people.

"We know how to love life, love sport and love fair competition."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 0751 GMT (1551 HKT)
Reza Sayah looks into why thousands of Ukrainians have left their old lives to volunteer to fight.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
CNN's Ralitsa Vassileva speaks to The New Republic's Linda Kinstler about Putin's motives with Ukraine and China.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1436 GMT (2236 HKT)
President Barack Obama speaks at the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1258 GMT (2058 HKT)
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of "high-energy objects" from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
"There were many scenes that defied logic," writes OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw, who was one of the first international observers to arrive at the site.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
On a country road in eastern Ukraine, a scene of bucolic tranquility was suddenly interrupted by the aftermath of carnage.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
In the city of Donetsk, the devastation wrought by weeks of fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces is all too apparent.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0000 GMT (0800 HKT)
CNN's Diana Magnay reports from the front lines in the Ukrainian conflict.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
August 23, 2014 -- Updated 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)
A shopkeeper's mutilated body, relatives' anguish, homes destroyed ... this is Donetsk.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1112 GMT (1912 HKT)
A 20-minute drive from Kiev takes you to a neighborhood that feels more like Beverly Hills than central Ukraine.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 1412 GMT (2212 HKT)
Photos illustrate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as fighting continues to flare in the region.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Future imports, exports between the EU and Russia are now banned -- but existing contracts continue.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
Learn more about the victims, ongoing investigation and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
The downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 put the pro-Russia rebels operating in Ukraine's eastern region center stage.
ADVERTISEMENT