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Putin Declares Paralympic Games Open

Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared the 11th Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi open.

Putin attended the opening ceremony of the games in Sochi's Fisht Stadium.

Nearly 550 athletes from 45 countries will be competing in the games.

The games are taking place against the backdrop of the crisis unfolding not far away in Ukraine's Crimea region on the Black Sea.

Only one Ukrainian competitor took part in the opening ceremony.

Spectators gave huge cheers and some even stood to applaud 37-year-old skier and biathlete Mykhailo Tkachenko who came through the Fisht stadium in his wheelchair.

Without a trace of a smile, Tkachenko proudly carried his country's national flag for his 31-strong team who did not enter the stadium with him.

Some Western countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany, have not sent government delegations in protest at Russia's Crimea intervention.

Putin had said that he hoped the Paralympic spirit will help "cool the tensions" over Ukraine.

Based on reporting by ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and AFP