Ukraine Skier Withdraws From Sochi Olympics Amid Kiev Deaths
Ukrainian skier Bohdana Matsotska withdrew from the Olympic Games following deadly clashes between anti-government protesters and police in Kiev this week.
Matsotska, who raced in the super combined at Sochi, Russia, and Oleh Matsotsky, her father and coach, said they wouldn’t take part in today’s slalom competition, the Ukraine Olympic Committee said in a statement. Other athletes who have yet to compete will stay, the committee said.
Violence in the country of 45 million, a key east-west energy route, flared this week as protesters grew frustrated that demands for elections and governance changes were being ignored. President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration said talks through the night with European and Russian officials and opposition leaders have yielded a plan to resolve the crisis, as the U.S. and European Union threaten to impose sanctions.
“More than 100 people killed by police and snipers in Kiev!” Ukrainian snowboarder Yosyf Penyak wrote in English on his Facebook Inc. page today. His page features photographs of Ukrainian flags with black ribbons hung in the Olympic village and of a lit candle, colored like the national flag, melting on in an outstretched hand, with a dedication to protesters who died during fighting in January.
At least 77 people have died since violence erupted Feb. 18 around the protest camp in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, according to the Health Ministry. A truce agreed the following day crumbled yesterday. While Yanukovych plans to sign a plan to resolve the crisis today, European officials warned an accord hasn’t yet been reached. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said today on Europe 1 radio that negotiations were continuing.
Sergey Bubka, the head of Ukraine’s Olympic team, said the country’s 43 athletes will continue to compete in Sochi and expressed his condolences for those affected by the violence in the capital, Kiev.
“I share the common view that athletes who are representing Ukraine are promoting the mission to unite our nation at this horrifying time,” Bubka posted on his Twitter account, which is verified. “The Ukraine Olympic team will continue to participate in Sochi and hopefully raise the spirits of our compatriots back home.”
Bubka met Matsotska and Matsotsky yesterday to discuss the events in Ukraine, according to the statement.
Ukrainian snowboarder Annamari Chundak urged opposition leaders to send people home peacefully. “It would be honest now to go to the stage and say that the authorities will clear out Maidan in the near term and offer some way out,” she wrote on her Facebook Inc. page, referring to Independence Square in Kiev where protesters set up camp. “You can’t hide your head in the sand when you can save thousands of lives.”
Athletes from other countries were focused on their events, putting political turmoil outside the Olympic village aside while they competed.
“I’ve made it a bit of my own bubble,” Kelsey Serwa, a first-seed Canadian ski cross athlete, said after her race today. “It’s your choice to get involved with as much external distractions as you choose.”
Lviv, a Ukrainian city that’s about 470 kilometers (290 miles) east of Kiev, is bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. The Lviv region broke allegiance to Yanukovych this week amid the protests.
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