By David Kirton
YANQING, China (Reuters) -Ukraine’s Vladyslav Heraskevych used his moment in the Olympic spotlight to make a gesture of peace regarding the tense situation on Ukraine’s border with Russia.
After completing his third run in the men’s skeleton event at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre on Friday night the 23-year-old briefly flashed a paper sign reading “NO WAR IN UKRAINE”, he said speaking to reporters after the race.
Though he showed it quickly just to the main TV camera in front of him as he moved away from the end of the track, he explained his action to reporters after his fourth run.
“It’s my position, like any normal people I don’t want war. I want peace in my country and I want peace in the world, so nobody wants it. That’s my position, I fight for that, I fight for peace,” he said.
Russia has massed https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/us-says-russia-masses-more-troops-near-ukraine-invasion-could-come-any-time-2022-02-11 more than 100,000 soldiers near Ukraine’s borders, raising fears it will invade its neighbour.
Moscow denies plans to invade, but says it could take unspecified “military-technical” action unless a series of its demands are met, including promises from NATO never to admit Ukraine and to withdraw forces from Eastern Europe.
“At home in Ukraine it’s really nervous now, a lot of news about guns, about weapons, about some armies around Ukraine so it’s not OK. Not in the 21st century.”
Asked if he was concerned about repercussions for making a political statement at the Olympics, he said he hoped the organisers would be on his side.
“I think Olympics also fight for peace. So for united countries, so I hope the Olympics will be with me in this situation, so nobody wants war.”
The International Olympic Committee’s rule 50 states that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
The IOC told Reuters it had spoken to Heraskevych and that since his message was a general call for peace: “For the IOC the matter is closed.”
The country’s Olympic Committee has asked reporters not to query Ukrainian competitors about politics, saying it “makes athletes lose the ground under their feet emotionally.”
On Friday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Russia had sent more forces to its border with Ukraine and could launch an invasion at any time.
Despite the tense situation at home, Heraskevych did his best to concentrate on his performance.
“But when war is near your country it always makes you nervous.”
Heraskevych, Ukraine’s first ever international skeleton racer, finished 18th on Friday.
(Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Hugh Lawson)