LONDON (AP) — Leaders of the Paralympics expressed hopes Saturday for a peaceful outcome in Ukraine after Russia executed a de facto military takeover of the Crimea region as athletes arrived in nearby Sochi for next week's start of the Winter Paralympics.
Russia's intervention in Ukraine has escalated in the days since the end of the Sochi Olympics, with global concern over the country's troop movements replacing the widespread praise for its staging of the Winter Games.
The Paralympic flame was lit Saturday at a ceremony in St. Petersburg, the birthplace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, ahead of the flame's 10-day trip that ends in Sochi on Friday for the opening ceremony of the games in the coastal Russian resort. Later Saturday, Russia's parliament gave Putin permission to deploy the military to protect Russian interests in the Crimean peninsula, west of Sochi on the Black Sea.
Russia's actions could violate the Olympic Truce, a U.N. resolution that asks warring parties to cease hostilities during Olympic events. The Paralympics end March 16.
"As with situations around the world, we hope a peaceful resolution can be found in the spirit of the Olympic Truce, which has covered the Paralympic Games since 2006," the International Paralympic Committee said in a statement to The Associated Press.