Accessibility links

Breaking News

Paralympic Closing Ceremony Marks End Of Sochi Olympic Season

Ukrainian silver medalist Olena Iurkovska (front) and teammates cover their medals during the medal ceremony after the Cross Country 4 x 2.5-Kilometer Mixed Relay competition at Laura Cross-Country Ski & Biathlon Center during the Sochi Paralympic Games in a show of protest against events in their homeland, where Russian troops are occupying Crimea.
The Winter Paralympic Games have closed in Sochi, bringing to an end the 2014 Winter Olympic Season in Russia's Black Sea resort.

The Paralympics ended with a glittering ceremony attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who used an earlier appearance at the event to defend his country's actions in Ukraine, where Russian forces are occupying Crimea.

International Paralympic Commiitee Philip Craven has described the games as a "spectacular" showcase for disabled sport.

Russia topped the medals table with 30 golds.

The Paralympics closing ceremony also marks the end of the 2014 Olympic season in Sochi that began on February 7 with the opening of the XXII Olympic Winter Games.

The Paralympic Games were held in the shadow of the Ukraine crisis, with the closing ceremony coinciding with a controversial Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine to join the Russian Federation that Kyiv and Western governments have rejected as "illegitimate."

Putin had earlier thanked sporting officials for "keeping the Paralympics away from politics."

At the same appearance, however, he made a reference to "problematic issues" and said, presumably of events in Ukraine: "I would like to assure you that Russia did not initiate, it was not an instigator, of these difficult circumstances which you know and we are talking about here."

Some members of Ukraine's Paralympic team staged "silent protests" against the turmoil in their country by covering their medals during award ceremonies.

Ukraine's cross-country skiing relay team covered their silver medals as Russian rivals collected their gold medals at a ceremony on March 15.

Ukrainian team official Nataliya Harach said, "It is a silent protest fighting for peace for everyone...because the situation in Ukraine did not change."

Based on reporting by AFP and ITAR-TASS