British gov't boycotts Sochi Paralympics over Ukraine

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 03 2014 10:03 AM | Updated as of Mar 03 2014 06:03 PM

LONDON - The British government will boycott the Winter Paralympics in Sochi over host Russia's military action in Ukraine, Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday.

The British premier said he and Foreign Secretary William Hague thought it would be "wrong" for ministers to go to the Games, which start on Friday, given the unfolding events in nearby Ukraine.

Cameron tweeted: "Because of the serious situation in Ukraine, @WilliamJHague & I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics."

Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, Prince Edward, who is patron of the British Paralympic Association, "has, on the advice of government, cancelled a planned visit to Russia" to attend the Games.

A Downing Street spokesman said Cameron was "gravely concerned" about the situation in Ukraine and was to talk with US President Barack Obama on Sunday.

Cameron was also due to speak with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Hague is in Kiev to meet the new Ukrainian authorities, make clear London's support for them and to urge continued restraint.

He tweeted after meeting Ukrainian political leaders that the "violation" of the former Soviet republic's sovereignty was "unacceptable".

Hague announced earlier that Britain would not take part in preparatory meetings this week in Russia for the G8 summit, due to be held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in June.

"In current circumstances, the prime minister is clear that the focus of our engagement with Russia must be the situation in Ukraine, rather than other normal business," the Downing Street spokesman said.

Ukraine warned Sunday it was on the brink of disaster and called up military reservists after Russia's threat to invade its Western-leaning neighbour risked sparking the worst crisis since the Cold War.

"The prime minister remains gravely concerned about events in Ukraine and is determined to pursue all avenues to reduce tensions and de-escalate a very dangerous situation," said the Downing Street spokesman.

"A stable Ukraine is in the interests of everyone.

"The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine has been violated and this cannot be the way to conduct international affairs."

He added that Cameron and Hague "have also decided that it would be inappropriate for UK ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics in current circumstances.

"The prime minister remains fully supportive of our Paralympic athletes' participation at Sochi."

Cameron did not attend the Sochi Winter Olympics last month, though there is no tradition of British premiers attending the Winter Games.

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