President Vladimir Putin said Friday he hoped that the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi will "cool the tensions" between Ukraine and Russia over the Crimea crisis.
"I hope the Paralympics can cool a little the tensions surrounding Ukraine," Putin told the President of the International Paralympic Committee Philip Craven while giving him a tour of the Black Sea host city.
With hours before the opening ceremony Friday evening, Ukraine's team in Sochi announced that they were not going to boycott the event, but expressed clear displeasure at the situation across the Black Sea in Crimea.
The news was met with a great sigh of relief from the IPC which had worked to convince Ukraine to participate for days since the standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces began in Crimea early this month.
"We are delighted by Ukraine's decision as we want sport to prevail and a full complement of teams to compete in what we are confident will be a fantastic Paralympic Winter Games," Craven said in a statement.
"All week the IPC has been working closely with the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee in an effort to keep them here in Sochi," he said, urging athletes and not politics to be centre stage.
Putin is set to attend the opening ceremony at 1614 GMT, but several countries, including Britain, France and the United States, decided against sending political delegations as a Cold War chill hung over the games, amid questions whether Moscow would eventually annex mainly Russian-speaking Crimea.
© AFP 2014