Winter Olympian's defiant move against Russia with post-race sign

Vladyslav Heraskevych, pictured here displaying a 'No War in Ukraine' sign at the Winter Olympics.
Vladyslav Heraskevych displayed a 'No War in Ukraine' sign at the Winter Olympics. Image: Getty/AAP

Vladyslav Heraskevych risked the wrath of Winter Olympics officials in Beijing on Friday after displaying a sign reading 'No War in Ukraine' during the Skeleton event.

The Ukrainian's sign was printed on a blue-and-yellow piece of paper, matching the colours of his country's flag.

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He displayed the message to TV cameras after his first run of the night, before putting it away for 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."

Heraskevych's political statement came as Russia amassed over 100,000 troops near Ukraine, stoking fears in the West that Moscow is planning an invasion.

Russia insists it has no such designs 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."

Vladyslav Heraskevych, pictured here in action for Ukraine in the Skeleton heats at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Vladyslav Heraskevych in action for Ukraine in the Skeleton heats at the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

IOC decides against reprimanding Heraskevych

Shortly after the race, the International Olympic Committee said there would be no repercussions for the athlete despite a ban on political statements.

There had been a question around whether the IOC might consider Heraskevych's act a violation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which states that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

But the Games governing body said: "This was a general call for peace. For the IOC the matter is closed."

Heraskevych earlier said he was not concerned about any possible repercussions.

"I hope the Olympics will (support) me in this situation. Nobody wants war," said Heraskevych.

"I hope it helps ... make peace in our country."

The IOC relaxed its rule against protests before the Tokyo Olympics last year, allowing athletes to express themselves politically before competitions start.

In the run-up to these Games, many braced for potential protests against the host country China, which has been accused of widespread abuses against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs.

China has also come under fire for its polices toward Tibet, its crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong and the near-total disappearance from public view of tennis player Peng Shuai after she accused a former Communist Party official of sexual assault.

Concerns over human rights abuses led some countries to stage a diplomatic boycott of the Games, while Chinese organisers warned foreign athletes that any statement that goes against Chinese law could be punished.

with AAP

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