Ukraine athletes appeal for peace with banner at Beijing Games

Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games - Zhangjiakou Paralympic Village, Zhangjiakou, China - March 10, 2022. Valerii Sushkevych, President of the Ukraine National Paralympic Committee, and the Ukraine delegation raise their fists and pose with a banner after a speech to the media at the Paralympic Village. Thomas Lovelock/OIS/Handout via REUTERS

ZHANGJIAKOU, China, March 10 (Reuters) - Ukrainian athletes and officials made an appeal for peace at the Beijing Winter Paralympics on Thursday, unfurling a banner, observing a minute of silence and appealing for an end to the war triggered by Russia's invasion of their country.

Led by national paralympic committee president Valerii Sushkevych, the entire 20-member delegation held up a "peace for all" message, accompanied by raised fists.

"This one minute is about the thousands of people, including children and others with disabilities, back in Ukraine," said Sushkevych. "If mankind is civilised, then this war must be stopped. People, women and children deserve to live, not die."

Head coach Andriy Nesterenko said that many cities had been destroyed and added that seven members of the team belonged to Kharkiv, which has been under siege by Russian forces.

"The Russians have bombed many hospitals and schools ... we need your support today, not later. People who attack civilian areas cannot be human ... we kindly ask for a safe sky over Ukraine."

Russia calls its action in Ukraine a "special operation" and it denies firing on civilians.

Ukraine have thrived at the Paralympics despite almost not making it to the Chinese capital because of the war, claiming six gold medals to sit third in the table behind hosts China and Canada.

Teams from Russia and Belarus, which has been a key staging area for Russian forces, were not allowed to take part.

Reporting by Dhruv Munjal; Editing by Robert Birsel

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