By Nick Butler

Ukrainian Paralympic chief Valeriy Sushkevich speaking this afternoon ©Getty ImagesMarch 16 -  Valeriy Sushkevych, President of the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee, has claimed the Games in Sochi has helped prevent further Russian intervention in his country over the last two weeks.


This comes after Russian troops occupied the Crimean peninsular in the south of the country the week before the Winter Paralympics began. 

Following that Ukraine seriously considered boycotting the Games and only decided to compete following a meeting between Sushkevych and Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly before the Opening Ceremony. 

Speaking today, Sushkevych confirmed that Ukraine would participate in the Closing Ceremony as he defended the decision to stay and compete, but still strongly rebuked Russian action. 

Valeriy Sushkevych was speaking on the same day as a referendum to decide whether Crimea should join Russia ©AFP/Getty ImagesValeriy Sushkevych was speaking on the same day as a referendum to decide whether Crimea should join Russia ©AFP/Getty Images



"I believe we have accomplished our mission of peace and I think that the Paralympic Games have stopped the further invasion of Russia into Ukraine," Sushkevych said. 

"These are the Games when, for the first time in the history of the Paralympic and Olympic Movement, we had a situation where the host country is an aggressor in respect to a participant country.

"This is the very last day of the 11th Paralympic Games, and today I feel extremely emotional and so does the Ukrainian Paralympic team.

"What kind of country are we going to come back to the day after tomorrow, whether it will be a country in a state of war, whether the murder and the massacre of the people will take place?

"Will there be groups of people shooting at each other?"

Sushkevych continued by thanking the Russian volunteers, "who are a huge contrast to those who are aggressors", before praising his Ukrainian team for performing so strongly "in a very complicated situation when each of those athletes was thinking not only of their sport but also of the peace in their country".

Ukraine have finished fourth in the Sochi 2014 medals table with huge success in Nordic skiing ©AFP/Getty ImagesUkraine have finished fourth in the Sochi 2014 medals table with huge success in Nordic skiing ©AFP/Getty Images



The Ukrainian team finished fourth overall on the medals table in Sochi for the second successive Winter Paralympic Games, with five gold, nine silver and 11 bronze medals across the sports of biathlon and cross-country skiing.

That haul included many tight battles with Russia as the values of sportsmanship and unity came to the fore despite political divides.

Yet, as a referendum is held today in Crimea to decide whether the region should become a part of Russia - derided as illegal by the Kiev Government and by Western authorities - there is a possibility of more conflict to come.

After only the Ukrainian Flagbearer Mykailo Tkachenko participated in the Opening Ceremony it also remains possible that similar "limited participation" will be seen at the Closing Ceremony this evening. 

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