Ukraine team members leave Games in support of protesters

Thu Feb 20, 2014 12:13pm EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Two members of Ukraine's Olympics team decided on Thursday to pull out of the Sochi Winter Games in support of demonstrators back home after widespread anti-government protests left dozens dead and hundreds injured.

Alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska and her coach and father Oleg Matsotskyy said they had withdrawn in protest at Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich and his government.

"I have decided not to take part in the slalom, my favorite discipline (on Friday), because of the horrible events that are happening in the capital of my Ukraine, in the Maidan (square)," the 24-year-old Matsotska told Reuters Television.

"My friends are there at the Maidan, people I know, close friends of mine. To go on the start line when people are dying and when the authorities broke the main rule of the Olympic competition, which is peace - I simply cannot do it."

The fighting in Ukraine has left at least 50 people dead and hundreds more injured in anti-government protests and clashes with security forces.

Ukraine team officials and some athletes held a minute's silence in memory of the victims. Black ribbons were added to Ukraine flags hanging on the balconies of their building in the athletes' village.

"I am not a political person, I am totally out of politics and political parties, but I stand against these horrible actions that Yanukovich and his government are taking against our Ukrainian people," Matsotska said.

"I don't want to enter the competition under such terrible circumstances." Matsotska competed in the super-G and the giant slalom events, finishing 27th and 43th respectively.   Continued...

Ukraine's flag-bearer Valentina Shevchenko leads her country's contingent during the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson