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‘It’s real war. It’s not a movie’: skeleton athlete in Ukraine

Whistler-trained Ukrainian skeleton athlete Vladyslav Haraskevych gives view into ‘terrifying’ situation on the ground in Kyiv
N-Vladyslav Haraskevych Ukraine Skeleton Athlete 29.09 SCREENGRAB : NBC
Ukrainian skeleton athlete Vladyslav Haraskevych flashes a sign calling for peace in Ukraine after one of his runs at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

A Ukrainian skeleton athlete with close ties to Whistler is urging the international community to help put an end to Russia’s invasion of his native country.

“Sanctions won’t work now. They will work in 30 days, in two months, three months—but people are dying now. Governments should do something,” said Vladyslav Haraskevych from just outside of Kyiv on Friday, Feb. 25.

The Olympian’s comments come the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the brazen invasion that has shocked the world, and just hours after Russian troops pressed their advance and missiles pounded the capital.

“It’s terrible. Absolute nightmare right now what is happening in Kyiv,” Haraskevych said. “It’s real war. It’s not a movie. It’s hard to understand it and to recognize it, but real people [are] dying.”

UN officials have reported 25 civilian deaths so far, mostly from shelling and airstrikes. Russian troops have seized Chernobyl, the former nuclear plant north of Kyiv, and Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova said Friday that Russian forces also attacked an orphanage with 50 children, but no one was injured.

“It’s nothing similar to peace from Russia. They destroy everything. They destroy kids, old people. Everyone,” said Haraskevych.

As troops closed in on the city of 3 million, the normally busy streets of Kyiv were mostly quiet Friday, only cut through by the screech of an air-raid siren or boom of a nearby explosion.

“There’s lots of explosions everywhere,” Haraskevych described. “Russian machines are already in Kyiv and they are already shooting our buildings.”

Haraskevych, who has trained and competed extensively in Whistler, made a statement at the recent Winter Games when he held up a small sign that read “No War in Ukraine” after finishing a run in Beijing, a plea for peace as tensions were rising between his country and Russia. Now he continues to speak out and has taken to live-streaming from Kyiv.

“I try to stream this news to the world because I think the world don’t understand what’s happening now. It’s really terrifying,” he said.

And while the 23-year-old has received ample support from friends and colleagues in the international skeleton community, he feels like Ukraine’s pleas for military aid from its global allies have largely fallen on deaf ears.   

“We feel like people from around the world are helping, but the world’s governments aren’t helping us at all,” he said. “I have a lot of friends in Canada and the USA from our skeleton family, and I feel supported, but governments aren’t supporting us. Sanctions are not enough now. Sanctions will help if you do it months ago, but now, once war starts, it’s too late.”

For now, Haraskevych has no plans to leave the Ukrainian capital.

“My plan is to stay with my family and to stay in my country. I’m not going to go anywhere from Kyiv. I will stay here in the capital and we will see [how] I can help,” he said. “I will try to do my best to help my country—to live.”