Winter Olympics 2022: Ukraine, ROC athletes compete as tensions between countries at fever pitch
Russia and Ukraine tensions may cast shadow on Beijing Games
For Ukraine and Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) athletes competing at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the political tensions between their homelands are adding to the weight on their shoulders.
Ukrainian athletes admitted ahead of the opening ceremony that they’re not mingling so much with their Russian counterparts.
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"We're not the best of friends. We spend time with our own team. We're not in contact with the Russians," Ukrainian bobsledder Lidiia Hunko told Reuters on Friday.
Hunko said she wasn’t looking to score political points but was more focused on getting gold medals and representing her country on the sporting stage.
"This situation (around Ukraine) affects us because we all have family, we all have friends there. Of course, we treat people as separate individuals, but it still leaves a mark," she added.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been boiling for months. Roughly 3,000 American troops were moved to Romania with what the Pentagon called a "defensive posture."
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The movement comes as Russia continues to maintain a force of more than 120,000 troops along Ukraine’s border. The Kremlin has accused the U.S. of hyping up the security threat and has claimed it has no intention of invading Ukraine.
Russian athletes told RIA news agency the rhetoric between Russia and Ukraine has not affected their interactions.
"We have friendly relations. [Ukraine’s Oleh Handei] always tells me, 'Don't pay attention to that, it's just politics,’" speed skater Semyon Elistratov told the RIA news agency.
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Russian officials have said they were against politicizing the Games. Sports minister Oleg Matytsin told TASS news agency Russia would be "sincerely happy" for Ukrainians if they make it to the podium.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.