Winter Paralympics: Ukraine to compete in Sochi
Last Updated: 07/03/14 7:17pm
Ukraine will compete in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi.
The opening ceremony took place on Friday and Ukraine's participation was in doubt because of the political crisis in the region.
But just seven hours before the ceremony the president of the country's Paralympic Committee, Valeriy Suskevich, confirmed: "We are staying at the Paralympic Games."
But he added that Russia's recent actions have made their decision a difficult one, and the chances of winning medals has decreased because the athletes will not be able to fully focus on their events.
"I don't remember a situation when the organising country during a Paralympics started an intervention on the territory of a country taking part," he said.
"I don't know what to extent the team can focus on the result now."
Suskevich revealed that he met with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday and warned that any escalation of military conflict would result in the team leaving.
"I declare should this happen we will leave the Games," he added. "We cannot possibly stay here in this case."
He said his meeting with Putin was "calm, polite and respectful" but admits he did not receive any guarantees from the president.
He said Putin told him that he would "think about" his points.
Suskevich added that Ukraine's parade at the opening ceremony would have a "special format, a very restrictive format".
Ukraine has accused Russia of sending troops into the Crimea, which is just a few hundred miles from Sochi.
The Crimea has been part of Ukraine since 1954 but the majority of the population speaks Russian as a first language.
The Russians deny any wrongdoing in the Crimea, insisting the troops are local volunteers and not under their authority.
International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven welcomed Ukraine's decision.
He said: "We are delighted by Ukraine's decision 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.
"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 centre stage and the headlines they deserve."