Ukraine will compete in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi despite Russia’s military moves in Crimea.
The Ukrainian Paralympic Committee decided against boycotting the games, announcing a few hours before Friday’s opening ceremony that its athletes would stay.
The decision came after discussions between Ukrainian officials and athletes over whether to pull out in light of the crisis back home and Russia’s military takeover of the Crimean peninsula.
“We are staying at the Paralympics,” Valeriy Sushkevich, president of the National Paralympic Committee of Ukraine, said at a news conference before adding that the circumstances were far from ideal.
“I don’t remember a situation when the organising country during a Paralympics started an intervention on the territory of a country taking part. I don’t know what to extent the team can focus on the result now.”
The Ukrainian official said the team would leave Sochi if there is any escalation of military conflict.
“I declare should this happen we will leave the games,” Sushkevich said. “We cannot possibly stay here in this case.”
He said he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday night to discuss the situation and request peace during the games. Suskevich said he did not receive any guarantees but it was important that Putin agreed to listen.
Putin and IOC President Thomas Bach are expected to attend Friday’s opening ceremony. Several countries have decided not to send political leaders or dignitaries to the ceremony in protest of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
About 575 athletes from 45 countries are due to compete in the 10-day Paralympics.