Britain’s Prince Harry on Saturday praised the courage of the Ukraine team at an opening ceremony for the Invictus Games in The Netherlands, where the Ukrainian competitors also received a standing ovation.
“Your bravery and choosing to come and of being here tonight cannot be overstated,” the Duke of Sussex told the audience at the ceremony in the Dutch city of The Hague.
“Glory to Ukraine,” his wife Meghan added in Ukrainian, addressing the team who had travelled to the games despite the invasion of their country ordered by Moscow on February 24.
Harry said the team had told him of their wish to attend “despite all odds… not simply to show your strength, but to tell your truth. The truth of what is happening in your country.
“You know we stand with you. The world is united with you and still you deserve more.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived in The Netherlands on Friday, making their first joint public appearance in Europe since quitting royal life and moving to North America more than two years ago.
A day earlier they had paid a secret visit to Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, where they also reportedly met his father Prince Charles, following tensions caused by their interview with chat show queen Oprah Winfrey in which they accused an unnamed member of the royal family of racism.
– ‘We are all behind you’ –
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the ceremony that some members of the Ukraine team could not be at the games as they were “fighting on the frontline”.
“Of course, we are thinking of those Ukrainians in the Invictus community who have paid the ultimate price for their fighting in the war… we are all behind you,” he said.
According to the Ukraine team at least four members of the Invictus community there have died in fighing in Ukraine since 2014.
Harry, who served with the British army in Afghanistan, founded the Invictus Games for disabled military veterans.
More than 500 participants from 20 countries are taking part in the Invictus Games, which have been postponed twice because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Just before the prince’s arrival on Friday, the Ukrainian team made their own arrival to great applause.
The team of 19 people were present in the Netherlands to take part but said they regretted the absence of one participant, trapped in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
The paramedic, Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, is “in danger of death now”, a spokeswoman for the team told AFP.
“She is the only woman on the team and was due to compete in archery and swimming,” the team said in a statement Friday.