Prince Harry: 'Having Team Ukraine at Invictus Games is extraordinary'

Prince Harry: 'Having Team Ukraine at Invictus Games is extraordinary'

April 18, 2022

Prince Harry praises ‘extraordinary’ commitment of Ukrainians at Invictus Games… and reveals four members of their team including archery instructor were killed fighting for their homeland

  • Prince Harry spoke to the BBC about the Invictus Games currently taking place
  • The event is being held in the Netherlands with teams from 17 different nations
  • Ukraine’s team has lost four members, including archery coach Dmytro Sydoruk
  • Serhii Karaivan, a former trialist for Invictus Games for Team Ukraine, also died

Prince Harry has today praised the ‘extraordinary’ commitment of Ukrainians taking part in his Invictus Games, in spite of Russia’s invasion of their homeland.

The Duke of Sussex, who is currently staying in the Netherlands, where the games are taking place, said the competition would ‘not be the same’ without a team from Ukraine.

The 37-year-old, who founded the event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women in 2014, also revealed how four members of the Ukraine team had died while defending their country in the build up to the week-long sporting competition.

And he said news of their deaths ‘brings it home’ the scale and real-life consequences of the conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: ‘I was struggling for 24 hours about what to say about Team Ukraine.

‘The whole world is definitely behind them, but again, is that enough. When you get to see and speak to them, and see in their eyes the experiences and the things they have seen, just in the last few weeks, it is really hard.

The Duke of Sussex, who is currently staying in the Netherlands, where the games are taking place, said the competition would ‘not be the same’ without a team from Ukraine

People applaud for Ukraine, as Russia’s invasion of the country continues, during the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games in The Hague 

‘It is emotional to think that they all jumped in the bus, first of all they had to make the decision to come, then they jumped in the coach, probably slept all the way, and I think what people need to remember, or perhaps don’t even know yet, the vast majority of the Ukraine team were serving in some shape or form.

‘So they would remove their uniforms, put their team strips on, jumped on their coach, came over here, slept for a couple days, tried to decompress and then was straight into it. And they have to go back. 

‘So I think to have them here is extraordinary, and that commitment they have made to leaving their country, which is a real hard thing for them to decide to do, but it came with their president’s blessing, and I don’t think this games could have been the games it is without Team Ukraine.’ 

Prince Harry also spoke about the tragic deaths of four Team Ukraine Invictus participants, who have been killed in the fighting with Russia.

Team members Dmytro Oliynyk and Vladimir Motelchuk both died in rocket attacks on Mykolaiv on March 29.

Another team member, Sergey Smilin died in service on March 18. A fourth member of the team, archery coach Dmytro Sydoruk, was killed in action earlier this month. 

Serhii Karaivan, a former trialist for the Invictus Games and Warrior Games for Team Ukraine, was also killed in March.

Speaking about their deaths, Prince Harry said: ‘And, of course, they (Team Ukraine) have lost now four members of their community. And one being their archery instructor who isn’t here, he didn’t make it – killed in action.

‘So I think it really just brings it home to what is really going on across Europe right now. 

‘And we’ve got over 500 competitors here with various different stories and backgrounds, but ultimately we are all together in this.’

Invictus bosses had earlier released a statement on the deaths of Mr Oliynyk,  Mr Motelchuk and Mr Smilin last month.

In it, they said: ‘ Our thoughts are with their families, teammates and the wider community.

‘All were Warrior Games trialists and competitors, and whilst they were not preparing for the Invictus Games The Hague 2020, they were all extremely active in the international Invictus community on the We Are Invictus platform, competing in events over the past year including the virtual London Marathon, and online Rowing championships.

‘We encourage our community to continue to look out for one another online, as sad news continues to emerge, as many will have had the opportunity to compete alongside Team Ukraine virtually or in previous Invictus Games.’  

Meanwhile, Oksana Horbach, said in a statement following the news of Mr Karaivan’s death: ‘It was tough to learn about Serhii’s death as the fighting continues. 

Artem Lukashuk Team Ukraine (pictured left holding a US flag), Rafael Morfinenciso of Team USA (pictured centre in US shorts but holding a Ukraine flag) and Ivan Heretsun (pictured centre right) of Team Ukraine during the medal ceremony of the Men’s IJ5 Long Jump on day two of the Invictus Games The Hague 2020

‘When we win, we will celebrate his life, talk about him, and his sense of humour, professionalism, patriotism and sports endeavours. 

‘And we will hug and cry and laugh because the memories of him bring joy and happiness. 

‘Please do not think of him as a martyr, he would not like it. Think of him as a celebrated Invictus Games community member, hero and defender of Ukrainian people.’ 

The Invictus Games is taking place at The Hague in the Netherlands this week, having kicked off on Saturday.

The event, which sees more than 500 participants from 17 different countries, is due to end on Friday. 

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