Winter Paralympics 2014: Ukraine Paralympic Committee make plea to Vladimir Putin for peace as they confirm they will compete in Games

Valeriy Suskevich, president of the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee, has said that all of his athletes are "very nervous and very afraid" due to the on-going turmoil in Ukraine

Ukraine's Paralympic Committee president delivered a powerful plea for peace to Vladimir Putin as he announced his team would compete in the Sochi Games.

But Valeriy Suskevich, who had a personal meeting with the Russian President on Thursday night, warned that any escalation in the tension between the two nations would result in his athletes leaving Sochi.

The build-up to the Winter Paralympics, which get under way with the opening ceremony on Friday night, has been dominated by the growing crisis over Crimea.

Suskevich gave a passionate speech to a packed news conference on Friday in which he outlined the team's reasons for staying and the fears he still had.

Suskevich, who said he was close to an "emotional breakdown" because of the strain he and his team were under, said the decision to stay had been made collectively by the entire squad, was without political influence and was supported by the Ukrainian people.

"We are staying at the Paralympic Games," he said.

"The Ukraine team have a colossal desire to bring peace - peace to their country, peace to Europe, peace to the world.

"I really hope that we can keep peace during the Paralympic Games.

"This is the minimum I ask and hope for, to keep peace and to take steps to achieving detente in the conflict, to prevent any steps leading to war."

Suskevich, who has been a senior politician in Ukraine for 15 years, met with Putin for half-an-hour.

He said the meeting was "calm", "polite" and "respectful" and it was "extremely important" Putin agreed to listen.

He said he had not received any "guarantees", but that Putin told him he would "think about" his points.

"I could have talked at length to the president of Russia about Crimea," Suskevich said.

"I could have talked a lot about conflict, I didn't have time. I realise there is exclusivity in meeting the president of Russia.

"I reiterated for Mr Putin, emphasising one request, that during the Paralympic Games we would have peace."

And Suskevich emphasised that any escalation of military conflict would result in the team leaving Sochi.

"I declare should this happen we will leave the Games," he added. "We cannot possibly stay here in this case.

"This is what we are afraid of. This is what we are opposing and we do not want to take place. I hope my message has been heard, I hope I have been heard by the president of Russia."

Ukraine had on Thursday appeared on the brink of pulling out of the Games, with Suskevich giving a series of emotionally-charged interviews following his team's welcome ceremony, in which he laid bare the toll the crisis in his country was having on his team, saying they were "very nervous" and "very afraid".

He was joined on Friday by one of those athletes, 25-year-old biathlete Grygorii Vovchynskyi, apparently the only competitor on the team who felt emotionally able to speak on the subject.

Working hard to compose himself, he said: "You ask me if we are ready to compete? Yes, with the strongest desire.

"We are ready to compete, ready to fight for Ukraine, ready to demonstrate we are a strong and free, independent people. We know how to love life, love sport and love fair competition.

The whole Ukraine team had chanted "peace for Ukraine" as they walked back to their accommodation after Thursday's welcome ceremony in the Alpine Village.

Suskevich added that the team's parade at the opening ceremony, which Putin is due to attend, would have a "special format, a very restrictive format".

But he said no political message would be expressed.

International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven welcomed Ukraine's decision to stay in Sochi.

He said: "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.

"The talking point of Sochi 2014 needs to be great sport and great athletes, not global politics."

PA

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links