Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Ukraine’s Paralympic chief Valeriy Sushkevich that politics must not affect sports events such as the Paralympic Games.
However Sushkevich insisted his team would quit the Games if Russia invaded his home country and that he hoped the competition would be able to spread peace instead.
Russia is hosting the Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi while being criticised for its actions in Ukraine’s southern region of Crimea.
The West blames Russia for seizing military and government institutions there.
Moscow says the armed men in Crimea are members of local self-defence units. President Vladimir Putin says he has the right to send in troops to defend Russian compatriots but that so far he has seen no need to do so.
Speaking hours before the opening ceremony, Sushkevich said he had a “calm and reserved” conversation with Putin.
“I repeated my one request, the one and most important request, that before and during (the Games) there will be peace,” he said, adding that the Russian leader answered that he would think about his words.
“The Ukrainian team, as well as hoping for good results, came with colossal hopes for peace, peace in our country, in Europe, in the world. I am sure .. that the majority is aware of the colossal danger to peace and the right of every person to have peace in the current situation,” he said.
Putin later told International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Philip Craven: “I very much hope the Paralympics will help us reduce the degree of passions around Ukraine.”