By Nick Butler at the Main Press Centre in Sochi

Bogdana Matsotska will remain in Sochi but has withdrawn from her remaining slalom event on political grounds ©Getty ImagesFebruary 20 - With one exception, the Ukrainian team will stay and compete at Sochi 2014 as planned despite the ever escalating unrest going on back home, it has been announced.


In a statement posted on the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee (NOC) website and explained further to insidethegames, athletes who still have competitions scheduled will remain in the Olympic Villages, while those who finished will return to Ukraine as planned.

So although up to half of the 45 strong team have returned home - this is due only to the completion of their events and not a single one has left for political reasons, it is said. 

The only part exception to this is Alpine skier Bohdana Matsotska, who after already competing in two events has withdrawn ahead of her favoured slalom discipline,although she will remain in Sochi.  
Along with her father and coach Oleh Matsotsky, she posted a message on Facebook today in which she explained the reasoning behind her decision. 

"In solidarity with the fighters on the barricades of the Maidan [protest camp], and as a protest against the criminal actions made towards the protesters, the irresponsibility of the President and his lackey government, we refuse further performance at the Olympic Games in Sochi 2014," she wrote. 

She continued by expressing her "extreme anger at President Viktor Yanukovych's latest actions, who instead of resolving the conflict through negotiations (which we had hoped he would [do] when we left for Sochi), has drenched the last hopes of the nation in blood."

Anti-Government protesters rebuild barricades today in Kiev as the protests continue to escalate ©Getty ImagesAnti-Government protesters rebuild barricades today in Kiev as the protests continue to escalate ©Getty Images



However, although confirming her withdrawal, the Ukrainian NOC revealed that Matsotska "fully understands the intention of other Ukrainian athletes to continue competing at the Games" and "plans to stay in Sochi until the Closing Ceremony to support her colleagues".

A minute's silence to acknowledge the deaths of at least 25 people in Ukraine earlier this week was held this morning in the Olympic Village, while black ribbons were also hung onto national flags in each Village.

However, despite requests, the decision was made that no black armbands would be worn by the athletes due to the fact that it contravenes International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules.

Speaking this morning, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said no request for armbands to be worn had been submitted, but this appeared to be contradicted by NOC President, and IOC Executive Board member, Sergey Bubka in a video message where he said requests had been made. 

But this confusion has now been cleared in a Ukraine Olympic Committee statement, seen by insidethegames, which explains how "as President of the Ukraine NOC, Sergey Bubka has great sympathy with the wishes of Ukraine athletes who want to wear black armbands to mark the current tragic events in Ukraine".

It continues: "However after consultation with the IOC, it was agreed that such symbolic gestures by athletes would not be in the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

"Therefore both parties agreed that another way of allowing Ukraine athletes to mark their respects should be found - the Ukraine athletes have since marked their respect in other ways such as holding a minute's silence last evening in the Olympic Village, issuing joint statements and giving media interviews."

Biathlete Vita Semerenko has already won bronze in Sochi and will be hoping to lead Ukraine to more medal glory in tomorrow's relay event ©Getty ImagesThe perfect riposte for the athletes would  be sporting success and biathlete Vita Semerenko has already won bronze in Sochi and will be hoping to lead her country to more medal glory in tomorrow's relay event ©Getty Images





Since the protests began in late November, when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia, there has been a steady growth in discontent and violence. 

Tensions had begun to subside as recently as Monday (February 17), as protesters ended their occupation of Government buildings in return for an amnesty against prosecution.

But violence erupted outside Parliament yesterday morning as Government supporters blocked opposition attempts to scale back the President's constitutional powers.

Fighting spread to surrounding streets and police launched a first attack on Independence Square on Tuesday and, with the unrest showing no signs of easing, emergency meetings have been held between President Yanukovych and the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland today.

It has been reported at least 21 protesters have been killed by security forces in Kiev today.

This escalation over recent days has also put Lviv's bid for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games very much on the back-burner - with Lviv 2022 chief executive Sergej Gontcharov admitting to insidethegames that "the conflict needs to be resolved before we can seriously be considered as hosts of the Winter Games".

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