A Ukrainian skier has dropped out of the Sochi Winter Olympics as an act of solidarity with protesters in Ukraine, amid escalated violence in Kiev this week.
From the Associated Press via ABC News:
A Ukrainian skier has withdrawn from the Olympics in response to the deaths of anti-government protesters in her country.
“I don’t want to participate when in my country people die,” Bogdana Matsotska told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The 24-year-old skier is refusing to ski Friday in the slalom, which is her third and best event at the Sochi Olympics.
Matsotska wants to leave the Olympics immediately to join protesters in the camp known as Maidan in Kiev’s Independence Square, but said she has been unable to book a flight home.
“I am in Maidan but just with my soul,” she said.
The two-time Olympian explained her frustration with Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych in an interview conducted in English and Russian.
“I think as a minimum he has to be jailed, and for a long time,” Matsotska said. “For all the lives that he took, for all the lives of innocent people that came peacefully to stand for their opinion.
“I hope that I will be heard by the world and that probably somebody will step in and will help,” she said.
Matsotska is remaining with Oleg Matsotskyy, her father and coach, in the athletes village in the mountains above Sochi.
Matsotska said that she and her father made the decision together.
The Olympian’s decision comes after violence reignited in Ukraine this week. A truce was briefly declared Wednesday between the government and opposition, but that quickly fell apart as protesters and police forces again clashed by Thursday morning.
The latest bloodshed happened early Thursday, a mere hours after Ukraine’s president and the leaders of three opposition parties agreed to a truce and talks.
Pitched battles broke out in downtown Kiev, with protesters tossing rocks and firebombs at police under a sky blackened by smoke from their burning barricades. At least one protester fired toward police lines with a shotgun.
Security forces appeared to fight back with automatic weapons and at least one sniper rifle.
The European Union meanwhile agreed Thursday upon a series of sanctions that it was prepared to impose in light of the situation in Ukraine, according to the NY Times.
Brushing aside Russian criticism, the European Union agreed on Thursday to go ahead with sanctions that include travel bans and asset freezes imposed on those deemed responsible for the fatal escalation of violence in Ukraine.
A day after the United States announced some similar moves, foreign ministers of the 28-nation European Union said they would devise a list of those who would be subject to the European sanctions, and that the sanctions would also ban the export of equipment likely to be used for repression in Ukraine.
But the European foreign ministers also left themselves room to continue with dialogue with the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, stressing the importance of political progress in Kiev where the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland have been trying to mediate.
The council not only called upon the Ukrainian government “to exercise maximum restraint,” but also for “opposition leaders to distance themselves from those who resort to radical action, including violence.” (Read the full statement regarding council conclusions on Ukraine from the EU).
(Featured image: AP video via NBC Philadelphia)DONATE
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