A Ukrainian athlete held a sign calling for peace at the end of his run for the men’s skeleton competition on Feb. 11 at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Vladyslav Heraskevych, 23, displayed the message “No War in Ukraine” on a blue-and-yellow paper, representing the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
“Ukrainian people and Ukraine gave me a lot. And in these difficult times, I must help my country bring peace,” Heraskevych told Almost.
His message comes as tensions have been simmering between Russia and Ukraine after Russia placed more than 100,000 troops and stationed vehicles and equipment near the border with Ukraine.
The US and NATO officials have said that the continued buildup is a sign of Russian President Vladimir Putin was preparing for a large-scale invasion.
Protests at the Olympics could be considered a violation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda… in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas,” according to the Guardian.
Heraskevych said he doesn’t think of his action as a protest.
“It was a call for peace,” he said. “Yes, I knew that this could be perceived as a political action, but on the other hand, the IOC also fights for peace and being united.”
However, after reaching out to Heraskevych, who placed 18th in the finals, the International Olympic Committee said in a statement that Heraskevych’s act was a “general call for peace,” thereby closing the case.
Speaking to Almost, Heraskevych said he wans’t nervous about the decision.
“I really love what I do, I love to set goals and achieve them, I love to fight on ice with my rivals, it is an honor for me to represent the country in the most prestigious competitions in the world,” he said. “Bu this makes no sense if there is a war going on in the country, people’s lives are more important than victories. Therefore, I wasn’t nervous about the final decision.”
“I really appreciate that the IOC saw the real meaning of our action and supported our country in the pursuit of peace,” he said.
On Tuesday Feb. 15, Putin said that Russia would “partially pull back troops” and seek a “diplomatic path” to resolve tensions with the West.
Although US President Joe Biden has welcomed negotiations, he has warned that it is still “very much a possibility” that Russia may invade Ukraine.
“Ukraine is a very kind nation,” Heraskevych said. “We are not a nation that wants to make war, we are a nation that wants peace and prosperity.”