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Ukrainian Olympian displays sign calling for 'No War in Ukraine'
BEIJING — A Ukrainian skeleton athlete flashed a small sign that read "No War in Ukraine" to the cameras as he finished a run at the Beijing Olympics on Friday night.
Vladyslav Heraskevych's sign was printed on a blue-and-yellow piece of paper, matching the colors of his country's flag. He did not display the sign after his second run of the night, which was his fourth and final run of the Olympics.
"It's my position. Like any normal people, I don't want war," Heraskevych said after he finished competing. "I want peace in my country, and I want peace in the world. It's my position, so I fight for that. I fight for peace."
The gesture comes as Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops near Ukraine, stoking fears in the West that Moscow is planning an invasion. Russia insists it has no such plans but doesn't want Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to be allowed to join the western NATO alliance.
"In Ukraine, it's really nervous now," Heraskevych said. "A lot of news about guns, about weapons, what's to come in Ukraine, about some armies around Ukraine. It's not OK. Not in the 21st century. So I decided, before the Olympics, that I would show my position to the world."
The International Olympic Committee says there will be no repercussions for the Ukrainian skeleton athlete who flashed a small sign urging peace in his homeland at the end of a run.
It was possible that the IOC could have considered Heraskevych's act a violation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. That rule, in part, states that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
But it also could fall into a gray area since the sign did not explicitly disrespect an opponent or criticize any political target. Heraskevych said he was not concerned about any possible repercussions.
"I hope the Olympics will (support) me in this situation. Nobody wants war," Heraskevych said.
But the IOC characterized the sign late Friday as "a general call for peace." They consider the matter closed.
Heraskevych ultimately finished 18th in a field of 20.
Russia's stance is that it does not plan to invade Ukraine but wants the West to keep Ukraine and other former Soviet countries out of NATO. In an interview Thursday with NBC News, U.S. President Joe Biden repeated his warning that any Americans still in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible.
"I hope it helps … make peace in our country," said Heraskevych.