Ukraine will participate in the Sochi Paralympics even though they are facing Russian aggression in Crimea, the autonomous republic of Ukraine. Ukrainian Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Suskevich asked Russia President Vladimir Putin for peace during the games.
“We are raising our flag for peace,” said Suskevich.
“The athletes have a right to have the Paralympic Games under peaceful conditions,” he said.
“I wish every success to Russian Paralympians, but the Ukrainian team have a colossal desire to bring peace to Ukraine.”
However, he warned that any escalation of military conflict would result in the team leaving Sochi.
“I declare that should this happen we will leave the Games,” he added. “We cannot possibly stay here in this case.”
After Ukraine’s parliament deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, Crimea declared allegiance to Russia, kicked out their Kyiv-appointed officials and elected pro-Russian officials. On Thursday, their parliament asked to join the Russian Federation. Over 58% of the population are ethnic Russians, and the peninsula is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
The West, European Union and NATO have repeatedly asked Putin to pull back forces in Crimea, but he insists he has a right to protect the ethnic Russians and Russian interests.
Countries in the EU did not send representatives to the Paralympics. On March 2, United Kingdom’s Prince Edward, the patron of the British Paralympic Association, cancelled his three-day trip to Sochi. The US announced on March 3 it would also boycott the Paralympics because of the crisis in Crimea.