May 14, 2014 (ISN) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set up an emergency fund to support Ukrainian athletes, with President Thomas Bach urging “dialogue” as the country continues to struggle with political and social unrest.
The $300,000 (£178,300/€218,600) will be distributed to athletes by the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine for “training and competition purposes”.
“The IOC is following the political, economic and social developments in Ukraine with the greatest attention and growing concern,” said President Bach.
“Also the situation of Ukrainian athletes, including those who have so successfully represented their country in the recent Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, which has dramatically deteriorated.
“For all these reasons I repeat my appeal of Sochi to all political leaders involved to enter into a summit dialogue in the Olympic spirit of mutual respect and peace.
“To help the Ukrainian athletes – wherever they come from in Ukraine and whatever their background – and to mitigate their difficult situation, the IOC has established an emergency fund.”
Ukrainian athletes did compete at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics in March, after an eleventh-hour decision to take part.
But they made a statement about the crisis in Crimea – which has since held a referendum to become part of Russia – by sending only its flagbearer out during the parade of nations at the Opening Ceremony.
They came fourth in the medals table, with five gold, nine silver and 11 bronze.
The country won one gold at the Sochi 2014 Olympics the previous month, in the women’s biathlon relay, and one bronze, and came 14th in the London 2012 medals table, with six gold, five silver and nine bronze.
Donetsk and the neighbouring region of Luhansk have both declared themselves separate from Ukraine after referendums.
But the votes have been deemed illegal by the interim Ukraine Government, as well as the United Nations.
On Tuesday, seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed by rebels in the east of the country in further violence.
The political crisis has also derailed Lviv’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
It is up against Almaty in Kazakhstan, Kraków in Poland, Oslo in Norway and Beijing in China for the right to stage the Games.
The IOC ruling Executive Board is due to select an unknown number of Candidate Cities at its meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 8 and 9.