Russian President Vladimir Putin has officially opened the 2014 Winter Paralympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
"I declare the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games open," Putin said, after 45 national teams took part in the opening ceremony at the Fisht stadium.
Only one Ukrainian competitor appeared in a symbolic, scaled-down presence of the country that has denounced Russia's intervention in Crimea.
Huge cheers accompanied skier and biathlete Mykhailo Tkachenko who came through the Fisht stadium in his wheelchair, with some in the crowd standing up in support as he carried the Ukraine flag.
Ukraine's team of 31 had decided earlier Friday that they would not be boycotting the Games.
The Paralympics in Russia, running until March 16, are a major symbolic step for a country that for decades stigmatised people with disabilities and which only began to build accessible facilities in the run-up to the international event.
"A new history of Russia is beginning, a history without barriers and stereotypes," said Sochi Organising Committee head Dmitry Chernyshenko.
Many people with disabilities participated in the opening ceremony, held exactly one month after Russia mounted a dazzling Winter Olympics opening, and also featured classical ballet numbers.
It also included a monumental icebreaker that drifted across the stage to the sound of crushing ice.
Russia's notable Paralympians participated in the final relay to light the cauldron, including swimmer Olesya Vladykina and skier Sergei Shilov, who lit it with the final torch to booming fireworks.
Russia's team topped the the Winter Olympics medals table, an unexpected success which was a major boost to national pride.
A total of 45 countries and 575 athletes will be competing in Sochi in five sports, including alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, wheelchair curling and sledge hockey.
For the first time ever, alpine skiing will include snowboarding as a discipline.
Soviet Russia did not participate in the Paralympic movement until the 1988 Games in Seoul, at the onset of perestroika, and people with disabilities often remained invisible in society, unable to exit their apartments or even sent to special homes.
The stigma against people with disabilities still persists in the country, which only recently began to invest in urban infrastructure that ensures equal access.