Ukraine’s athletes are set to compete in the Paralympics, but the nation may pull out of Sochi if the nation’s current situation with Russia escalates, its Paralympic head said before the Opening Ceremony on Friday.
Russia reportedly made military moves in the Crimea region of Ukraine beginning Saturday, and the area’s parliament voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia on Thursday. NBC News has full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine situation here.
On Friday, Ukraine Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Sushkevich said if “some acts happen to escalate the conflict … we will leave [Sochi], we will not be able to be here,” according to R-Sport.
“I declare that should this happen we will leave the Games,” Sushkevich said, according to the BBC. “We cannot possibly stay here in this case.”
Sushkevich said he discussed the situation with Russian president Vladimir Putin in a half-hour meeting on Thursday night and that “no guarantees” were given by either side, according to reports.
“I told Putin my one and most important request, linked to that during the Paralympics there was peace,” he said. “So that concrete, significant steps were made so that human rights are preserved during the Paralympic Games.”
He added Friday that Ukraine’s athletes, a team of 23 according to The Associated Press, could have trouble concentrating on the competition.
“I don’t remember a situation when the organizing country during a Paralympics started an intervention on the territory of a country taking part,” Sushkevich said, according to R-Sport. “I don’t know what to extent the team can focus on the result now.”
The Opening Ceremony is set for Friday at 11 a.m. ET.