Sochi Notebook: Ukraine Far Off the Olympic Radar

By Ivan Nechepurenko

SOCHI — Amid ongoing violence in neighboring Kiev on Wednesday, most spectators at the Winter Olympics in Sochi said they were more interested in the final days of the Games and were not following the situation in Ukraine closely.

"I know what has been happening there, but I do not follow it all the time," said Mark Meson from Calgary, Canada.

"I am more preoccupied with the hockey tournament at the moment," he said.

Others were not aware of the chaos unfolding nearby.

"I do not know what is going on in Ukraine," said Marlene, who came to Sochi from Grenoble and declined to give her last name over privacy concerns.

"I came to support the French team, that is all I am concerned about," she said.

Sochi shares the Black Sea coast with Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, which was transferred from the Soviet Union to Ukraine by the Kremlin exactly 60 years ago, on Feb. 19, 1954.

Some spectators at the Games seemed to be quite mindful of this fact.

"It is very painful to see what is going on over there," said Dmitry Ryazantsev, a resident of the Kursk region, which borders Ukraine.

"This is our brotherly country, so we are very worried about it, and we know that it is the U.S. that is stirring up violence over there," he said.

Fred Dallas, a middle-aged man in a cowboy hat covered in Olympic pins, said he was spending more time taking pictures with people than reading the news online.

"I have been to Kiev and know that there was a skirmish over there recently, but now I want to concentrate on the remaining Olympic events," he said.

Ukrainian athletes, who so far have only earned one bronze medal, appealed to all sides of the conflict to stop the violence and resume dialogue.

"At the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, we are defending the honor of our native Ukraine by competing with the best athletes in the world," they said in a statement published on the national Olympic committee's website.

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Author's Bio
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Staff writer Ivan Nechepurenko covers domestic and international politics with a particular emphasis on the Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia's image in the West. A native Russian, he has spent seven years abroad, graduating from the London School of Economics with a degree in International Relations. You can contact him at

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