By Zjan Shirinian

Ukraine's flagbearer Mykailo Tkachenko entered the stadium on his own ©Getty ImagesMarch 7 - Ukraine made a clear statement against the situation in Crimea during the athletes' parade of the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics, in an Opening Ceremony which mixed captivating drama and stunning beauty.

Soprano Maria Guleghina sang aboard an ice breaker during one of the most visually stirring moments of the ceremony.

As ice fell off it, it revealed the word "peace".

The theme of the ceremony was "Breaking the Ice", with the show designed to emphasise the breaking down of barriers and stereotypes.

But perhaps the biggest talking point among a spectacular series of performances was Ukraine's statement during the parade of nations.

Their flagbearer, Nordic skier Mykailo Tkachenko, entered the stadium on his own.

Huge cheers erupted around the Fisht Olympic Stadium, continuing as he made his way around.

Tkachenko did not appear to acknowledge the cheers, and later joined some other team members to the side of the arena where the competitors and delegates were being seated.

The ice breaker made a dramatic entrance into the stadium ©Getty ImagesThe ice breaker made a dramatic entrance into the stadium ©Getty Images

The cauldron was lit in a shower of flame and sparks by two-times Paralympic swimming champion Olesya Vladykina and six-times Paralympic cross-country champion skier Sergey Shilov.

As in the Olympic Opening Ceremony, they lit a smaller cauldron which sent flames shooting towards the main cauldron in the centre of the Olympic Park.

Two hours earlier, the Ceremony began with 126 performers - dressed in red, white and blue - creating a human wave of the Russian flag.

The Pan-Russian Choir sang an a cappella version of the Russian national anthem, before Andree-Anne Gingras-Roy played a glass organ that rose from underneath the stadium.

She was joined by 504 ballerinas, including one aged just six, who formed the shape of the Paralympic Torch.

After all 45 nations competing in the Winter Paralympics took part in the athletes' parade, the Paralympic Agitos was created by 126 performers.

Pop singer Yulia Samoylova then entertained the crowd, as 300 ice fisherman painted patterns across the stage.

The Russian flag resembling a giant wave ©Getty ImagesThe Russian flag resembling a giant wave ©Getty Images

"Thirty-four years ago when the old Soviet Union declined the opportunity to stage the 1980 Paralympic Games in Moscow, the prospect of Russia staging its first Paralympic Games was nothing but a dream," said International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven during his Opening Ceremony speech.

"But dreams do come true, and since winning the Games seven years ago, this part of Russia has undergone a monumental transformation.

"However, the biggest transformation for this country is still yet to come.

"In the same way that the city of Sochi has built a barrier free environment for athletes and officials to enjoy, I call upon all those who experience these Games to have barrier free minds, too."

Earlier, Sir Philip and Russian President Vladimir Putin - who officially opened the Games - spoke to the IPC Governing Board.

Dmitriy Chernyshenko, President and chief executive of Sochi 2014, said: "Thanks to the Paralympic Games, a new era in the history of Russia has begun, one without barriers and stereotypes.

"The Paralympic Games have changed us; they have changed our attitude to those close to us and ourselves. Together, we are learning to be more considerate and attentive to each other."

The Ceremony kicks off nine days of competition starting tomorrow, with 72 medals up for grabs.

Read our live blog of the ceremony here.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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