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
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
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

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape