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Amid rumors and questions over whether Ukraine would boycott the Sochi Paralympics after Russia's occupation of Crimea, the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee decided to participate, but not without acknowledging the situation.

As a small protest, only biathlete Mykhaylo Tkachenko, the country's flagbearer, represented Ukraine at today's opening ceremony. He was greeted by huge applause from the crowd.

"We are raising our flag for peace," said committee president Valeriy Suskevich.

"I wish every success to Russian Paralympians, but the Ukrainian team have a colossal desire to bring peace to Ukraine."


Suskevich did reserve the right to withdraw the team should the military situation escalate, saying "I declare that should this happen we will leave the Games. We cannot possibly stay here in this case."

The Paralympics come in the middle of heated debate over whether Russia's actions should be punished in the sporting arena. Earlier this week, the Ukrainian ambassador to the European Union said he will push for Russia to be kicked out of the summer's World CUP. The next day, a member of the European Parliament proposed that nations threaten a boycott of the 2018 World Cup, to be held in Russia.

UEFA head Michel Platini has already weighed in, saying the World Cup is not the appropriate place to wage politics.

"I don't know why 11 players would not be allowed to play at the World Cup. Where is their responsibility?" Platini told CNN.


Platini, who played at the 1978 World Cup despite some pressure to boycott host Argentina's military junta, says the same situation should apply in 2018. "I thought it was better to go and explain that we were not happy with what was happening in Argentina. It could be the same in Russia."

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