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Simferopol, Ukraine (CNN) — Ukraine’s parliament demanded Friday that Russia halt any activity which can be interpreted as an attack on sovereign Ukrainian territory.

The resolution was voted through as fears mount that Ukraine’s Russian-majority Crimea region may seek to secede. Kiev suspects Russia of fomenting tension there.

Writing on his Facebook page, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov accused Russian forces of staging an “armed invasion” in the Black Sea peninsula, claiming they had blocked one military air base and entered the Crimean capital’s main airport overnight.

Around noon Friday, armed men in uniforms still stood guard outside the Simferopol airport. Airport operations did not appear affected.

“We are checking to make sure that no radicals come to Crimea from Kiev, from the Ukraine,” said one man, who didn’t give his name.

“We don’t want radicals, we don’t want fascism, we don’t want problems.”

Avakov claimed that the armed men who blocked the military airbase, in Sevastopol, were troops from Russia’s Black Sea fleet, stationed in the port city. They were camouflaged in uniforms without military insignia, he said.

Russia has not responded to Ukraine’s latest allegations. But it continued snap military exercises on Ukraine’s doorstep.

Deepening schism

Since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted Saturday following the deadliest demonstrations in the country’s history, Ukraine has been showing a deepening schism.

Those in the west generally support the country’s interim government and its tilt toward the European Union.

And many in the east prefer things as they were — a Ukraine where its larger neighbor, Russia, casts a long shadow.

And nowhere is that feeling more intense than in Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority. It’s the last big bastion of opposition to the new political leadership.

Ousted President to speak

Yanukovych, who has not been seen since his ouster, is now in Russia, where authorities have accepted his request for security, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. It attributed the information to anonymous government sources.

He is expected to give a news conference Friday in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, near the border with Ukraine.

He has already rejected Ukraine’s newly appointed unity government, saying he is still the country’s legitimate elected leader, so his reappearance may only fuel the rising tensions in Crimea.

Voting out the premier

On Thursday, dozens of armed men seized government administration buildings in Simferopol, the Crimean capital. They planted Russia’s flag atop the parliament building.

Then, in a vote of no-confidence, pro-Russian members of the Crimean parliament dismissed the government of Premier Anatolii Mohyliov, who was perceived as pro-Kiev.

The lawmakers also scheduled a referendum on greater autonomy for the region within Ukrainian territory.

The date of the referendum? May 25 — the day Ukraine is scheduled to hold its presidential and local elections.

Amid the dizzying developments, Kiev has gone about its business of governing.

On Thursday, lawmakers approved opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister. He made clear that he believes the country’s future rests in closer ties to Europe, not Russia.

Russian maneuvers

As tensions simmer in the Crimea, Russia alarmed some observers by announcing surprise military exercises Wednesday in its western and central areas.

Those continue Friday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, with more than 80 combat helicopters set to take to the skies in Russia’s Western Military District, which borders Ukraine, for search and rescue drills.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday against provocations by any party.

“I’m closely watching Russia’s military exercises along the Ukrainian border,” he said. “I expect Russia to be transparent about these activities, and I urge them not to take any steps that could be misinterpreted or lead to miscalculations.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had told him the snap military exercises were pre-scheduled and unrelated to the events in Ukraine.

He also said Lavrov had reaffirmed to him a commitment that Russia would “respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Kerry said that was a commitment Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously made to President Barack Obama when they spoke last week.

Crimea was handed to Ukraine by the Soviet Union in 1954. Just over half its population is ethnic Russian, while about a quarter are Ukrainians and a little more than 10% are Crimean Tatars, a predominantly Muslim group oppressed under former Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Gold for Russia, silver for Kim Yu-Na and controversy ensues

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 21 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — In the final chapter of her storied Olympic figure skating career, South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na won silver — not able to defend her gold against a Russian teenager who seemingly came out of nowhere to get the top prize.

Instantly, there was controversy.

Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova finished with a total score of 224.59, beating Kim’s score of 219.11 by 5.48 points after the free skate program. Sotnikova, 17, became the first female Russian skater to win in the category.

Some pointed out that she had stepped out after landing a triple combination and others raised questions about the anonymous judging system.

Dick Button, a men’s figure skating two-time Olympic Gold medalist, said he didn’t think Sotnikova was the whole package.

It didn’t help that one of the judges had in the past been suspended for a year for trying to fix an event at the Winter Olympics 16 years ago. Or that another is married to the head of the Russian figure skating federation.

5 moments from Thursday at the Winter Olympics

Sotnikova’s program had seven triple jumps, which was one more than Kim. The final judgment split sports journalists and figure skating experts.

“It’s debatable, but not a robbery,” wrote Chris Chase of USA Today. “Sotnikova skated well enough to win gold. She had a carefully constructed program with seven triples, five of which were in a combo. Kim had six and three, respectively. Thus, Sotnikova was going in with a higher total and made more margin for error, which she took advantage of with a minor hop after one exchange.”

Russia's Adelina Sotnikova becomes the first in her country to win gold in the single women's event.
Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova becomes the first in her country to win gold in the single women’s event.

Sotnikova’s technical score of 75.54 dwarfed Kim’s technical score of 69.69.

Results: Women’s figure skating results

But others weren’t convinced.

Kurt Browning, a four-time world champion, told the New York Times: “I just couldn’t see how Yu-na and Sotnikova were so close in the components. I was shocked. What, suddenly, she just became a better skater overnight? I don’t know what happened. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

Italy’s Carolina Kostner took the bronze.

Kim was looking to be only the third woman to defend her Olympic figure skating title, joining Katarina Witt, who took to the ice in Calgary 26 years ago, and Sonja Henie, who competed in the 1920s and 30s.

South Korea's Kim Yu-Na performs during Thursday's free skate.
South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na performs during Thursday’s free skate.

In 2010, she took gold in the Vancouver Olympics by a landslide, where she scored a record 228.56 points to win gold in women’s figure skating. She eclipsed her closest rival by a massive 23.06 points.

Known as “Queen Yuna” to her legions of fans, Kim’s victory in Vancouver made her the first Korean figure skater to win a gold medal.

Sochi 2014 is up and running

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Russia’s Winter Olympics got underway on the Black Sea coast with a burst of fireworks in a dazzling opening ceremony.

Russia’s Winter Olympics officially got underway on the Black Sea coast with a burst of fireworks and a dazzling opening ceremony that President Vladimir Putin hoped would dispel fears of militant attacks and a row over gay rights.

Putin has staked his reputation on hosting a safe and successful Games in the resort town of Sochi, where a high-octane show before 40,000 spectators at the gleaming new Fisht Stadium signalled the start of the full sporting programme.

He was joined by leaders from China, Japan and about 40 other countries in a show of support despite an international outcry over Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law passed last year, which critics say curtails the rights of homosexuals.

Upbeat

Despite grumblings about poor accommodation and tight security, the mood among competitors and officials after a handful of early qualifying events in Sochi and at the mountain base 40 km to the northeast was upbeat.

“Conditions offered to the athletes are absolutely outstanding,” said French Olympic Committee president Denis Masseglia on a clear, crisp day.

Around 37,000 security personnel are on high alert over threats to attack the Games, the most expensive ever staged at an estimated cost of $50bn.

There was a glitch at the ceremony, too, as the lighting of the five Olympic Rings overshadowed the singing of the Russian national anthem. Five stars on cables drifted together above the stadium, and four of them turned into Olympic rings – but the fifth never unfurled and they all failed to erupt into white flames as planned, marring what’s traditionally a key moment in the ceremony.

The costliest Olympic Games in history officially open in Russia on Friday, with 98 medals to be won over 16 days.

Sochi, on Russia’s Black Sea coast, will welcome about 2,900 athletes in 15 disciplines as the opening ceremony begins at 20:14 local time (16:14 GMT).

The build-up has been overshadowed by security fears, human rights concerns and delays to preparations.

But, at £30bn, the cost of these Games is more than the combined total of all other Olympic Winter Games to date.

Canada, Norway and the United States are considered the likeliest candidates to top the Sochi medal table, while Team GB have been set a target of at least three medals in Sochi.

If Britain reaches their target, that would mark the team’s best performance in terms of medals won since 1936, while hope is high that Britain could win more than one gold medal at a Winter Olympics for the first time.

The British women’s curling team and skeleton slider Shelley Rudman are both defending world champions, while team-mate Lizzy Yarnold leads the current skeleton rankings.

“I’m a canny Scot so I will err on the side of caution but we have a number of athletes competing at a top-class level in winter sports,” said British chef de mission Mike Hay.

“Without putting any additional pressure on, across more disciplines and more sports than ever before, we’re a strong team. We are confident we will do well and there is a great spirit in the camp.”

Hosting an Olympics for the first time since the boycotted Moscow Games of 1980, Russian athletes are under pressure to improve on the embarrassment of 11th place at the last Winter Games in Vancouver.

The nation has devoted £600m to elite winter sport since winning the bid to host these Games seven years ago.

Russian attention will be focused on the men’s ice hockey team, who have yet to win Olympic gold since the break-up of the Soviet Union (although a Unified Team featuring Russian players won gold in 1992), and popular figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, who has overcome injury to feature in the Games but faces a tough task to win a medal.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Park

Norway will look to biathlon and cross-country skiing for the bulk of their medals, while Canada’s medals will come from short track speed skating, in particular Charles Hamelin, who has the potential to be one of the faces of the Games, as well as freestyle skiing and snowboard.

The United States will expect big things from Alpine skiing and bobsleigh.

In the absence of injured skier Lindsey Vonn, the leading American lights are slalom specialist Mikaela Shiffrin and snowboarder Shaun White – despite his withdrawal from the slopestyle contest on Wednesday, citing concerns over the safety of the course.

Security in Sochi has been prominent as the world’s athletes and media arrive for the Games. Threats in recent months have included repeatedcalls to disrupt the Olympics from the Imarat Kavkaz group in the North Caucasus, suicide bombings in the nearby city of Volgograd, and a recent US warning about the potential for ‘toothpaste’ bombs on flights.

Journalists arriving in the region have found hotel rooms and other facilities unfinished amid a last-minute rush by organisers to complete building work, although the Olympic venues themselves have largely met with praise from athletes.

Russian opposition politicians and analysts have attributed Olympic project delays to corruption, which they say accounts for much of the Sochi Games’ substantial cost – more than three times the London 2012 budget.

Liliya Shevtsova, a senior associate at a Moscow public policy research centre,believes the Games are “an embodiment of corruption, inefficiency, irrationality, extreme vanity and megalomania”.

Sochi’s organisers do not recognise the £30bn figure (they claim it includes the costs of infrastructure which may have been built anyway) and insist their outlay has been closer to £4.3bn.

Alexander Zhukov, president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, said the authorities had “uncovered no cases of corruption”.

On Thursday, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon addressed another issue facing the Games: recent Russian legislation outlawing “gay propaganda” towards children,widely perceived as reinforcing the oppression of Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

“Many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against prejudice,” said Ban, addressing an International Olympic Committee (IOC) assembly in Sochi.

“We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face.”

IOC president Thomas Bach has said athletes who oppose Russia’s ‘anti-gay’ legislation are free to express their views in interviews with the media, but must not do so on the podium or during their events.

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Britain's Jamie Nicholls

Britain’s Jamie Nicholls spins into Sochi slopestyle final

“If an athlete feels strongly about speaking out we would not impede them doing that,” added Lord Coe, chairman of the British Olympic Association.

Speed skater Jon Eley will be Team GB’s flagbearer on Friday as a ceremony set to involve almost 10,000 participants opens the Games.

Sochi’s Fisht Olympic Stadium should be at full 40,000 capacity for the opening ceremony, although empty seats are anticipated at venues once the action begins.

Two weeks before the Games, organisers reported they had sold 70% of available tickets. Vancouver 2010, by contrast, sold 97% of its tickets with London 2012 achieving a similar figure.

For the first time in 30 years, events at the Winter Olympics began before the opening ceremony. Britain’s Jamie Nicholls reached the final of the men’s snowboard slopestyle, an event making its Olympic debut, on Thursday.

Billy Morgan, Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller missed direct qualification for the slopestyle finals but go through to the semi-finals, while GB figure skaters Matthew Parr, Stacey Kemp and David King competed in the team figure skating event – also new for these Games.

Women’s ski jump, luge team relay and biathlon mixed relay are among other events appearing on the Olympic programme for the first time.

The first medals of the Games will be decided on Saturday with five golds up for grabs in biathlon, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and speedskating.

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