Ukranian skier pulls out of Olympics, says country’s president should be ‘jailed’

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Pole vaulting great Sergei Bubka, who is the head of Ukraine’s national Olympic committee, told the AP on Thursday that he met with all the Ukrainian athletes still at the games and they plan to stay in Russia and return home as a team on Monday.

“It’s not easy,” Bubka said. “We are trying to show to the world that Ukrainian athletes are competing. We try to show the glory for Ukraine.”

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the Olympic body has been in touch with Ukraine’s Olympic officials following a deadly clash between anti-government protesters and police in Kiev.

Ukraine is divided over whether the nation of 46 million will have closer ties to the West or to Russia. The protests began in late November after Yanukovych turned away from a long-anticipated deal for closer ties with the European Union.

Matsotska said her national Olympic committee and the IOC respect her decision. Ukraine’s NOC posted a statement on its website saying that it was “shocked” by the violence at home toward “loved ones” and is doing its “best to honor them on the fields of play here in Sochi.”

Bubka said he met with Matsotska and her father for an hour and a half to discuss their decision. He said half of the team has already gone home in compliance with their original schedule, not related to the trouble in Kiev. The remaining athletes do plan to participate in the closing ceremony on Sunday and are discussing what they can do to appropriately address the violence back home.

“We want to look and see, try to settle all the issues,” Bubka said. “What uniform should we wear? I am asking, What is comfortable for you? We will see later. Let us think. We have two days.”

The Ukrainians were not represented at team captains’ meeting on Thursday night ahead of Friday’s women’s slalom. Sarah Lewis, the secretary general of the International Ski Federation, told the AP that Matsotska’s decision was a matter for the Ukrainian NOC to address while the federation focused on the games.

“Clearly the scenes from Ukraine are shocking for us all, and clearly it has a big effect on the athletes,” Lewis said. “Judging from it, it’s more important to her than Olympic participation. It’s a personal decision that she’s taken, that she feels is her way of dealing with the matter. But we’ll focus on getting the competition done.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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