Shadow cast over Sochi as Ukraine violence shatters Olympic truce
An outburst of deadly violence in neighbouring Ukraine is casting a pall over the final days of the Winter Olympics.
Host Russia began the Games with a call for a worldwide truce during the Olympic period, but by Wednesday it was trading blame with the United States and European Union over the bloodshed in Ukraine, which killed at least 25 people on Tuesday and Wednesday. Russia has steadfastly backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych throughout the three-month-old crisis, while the U.S. and EU have encouraged the opposition that is now battling police in the streets of Kiev.
“Those are terrible scenes,” Mark Adams, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, said, referring to the television images of the fiery streetfights. “The Olympic truce is an important, symbolic thing for us – I’m not sure really that it plays much part in what’s going on there but clearly we hope that the situation will be solved as quickly and with as less bloodshed as possible.”
The Ukrainian Olympic Committee said its athletes had asked for permission to wear black armbands in competition, as a gesture of mourning for those killed in Kiev. However, the Ukrainian team said the IOC rejected the request, citing the Olympic Charter’s ban on any kind of political or religious statements on athletes’ clothing.
The fighting began Tuesday after Ukraine’s parliament refused to table an opposition effort to alter the country’s constitution to curb Mr. Yanukovych’s powers. But the struggle for Ukraine dates back to Nov. 21, when Mr. Yanukovych – under heavy Russian pressure – shocked his country by walking away from an EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with Moscow.
The stakes are high for all sides. Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a belligerent statement Wednesday accusing “radical opposition leaders” of trying to violently seize power in Ukraine. “We do not see a coherent response from European politicians and institutions, which refuse to recognize that the responsibility for the actions of the radical forces in Ukraine lies on the opposition.” (Continue: The Globe & Mail)