By EDDIE PELLS – AP National Writer
Earlier this month, Ukrainian skeleton rider Vladyslav Heraskevych showed a sign at the Olympics: “No war in Ukraine.” On Sunday he was hidden about 150 kilometers outside of his country’s capital with guns nearby in case he defended his country got to.
“I’m a student,” the 23-year-old said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I have no experience with such things. But I’m willing to stay strong and help wherever I can.”
As Russian troops surrounded the capital, Kiev, Heraskevych was among about four dozen athletes from Ukraine and other countries who sent an open letter to Olympic and Paralympic leaders, urging them to immediately suspend the Russian and Belarusian Olympic and Paralympic Committees.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, backed by Belarus, is a clear violation of the Olympic and Paralympic Charters – a violation that must be met with severe sanctions,” the letter to IOC President Thomas Bach and his international counterparts said Paralympic Committee. Andrew Parsons.
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The letter said more Ukrainians had signed the letter, but “it was a challenge to speak to all the athletes from Ukraine as they are sheltering in bomb shelters.”
Advocacy group Global Athlete helped coordinate the letter, which was also signed by sliders from the US, Latvia and the Netherlands, members of the Russian fencing team and the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Athletes Union.
The International Olympic Committee has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it violates the Olympic truce. She has called on the international federations to cancel or postpone events planned in Russia and Belarus and to stop using the countries’ flags and national anthems.
However, neither the IOC nor the IPC have taken direct action against the countries themselves. The Paralympics start next Friday. Neither association immediately responded to AP requests for comment on the letter.
Among the letter’s signatories was Ukrainian freestyle skier Oleksandr Abramenko, whose embrace with a Russian athlete was caught on camera in Beijing and made headlines.
So did Heraskevych’s “No War” banner. After that gesture on February 11, the IOC quickly came out and said Heraskevych would not face sanctions for violating the Olympic rule, which limits on-field political protests at the games.
“This was a general call for peace,” the IOC said in a statement. “For the IOC, the matter is settled.”
Heraskevych told the AP he left China in mid-February with cautious optimism; At the time, Russia was massing troops along the Ukrainian border but had not invaded.
His hopes were quickly dashed. He spoke to AP from Zhytomyr, about a two-hour drive from Kiev. He was preparing to defend the capital of Ukraine if called upon to do so.
“It’s quiet now,” said Heraskevych. “But there is no safe place in Ukraine right now.”
Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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