Ukraine's Chef de Mission Anna Sorokina, fourth left, thanked other countries competing at the Winter EYOF for "making us feel alive" ©EOC

Ukraine's Chef de Mission Anna Sorokina has thanked participants here at the Winter European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) for their support, receiving a standing ovation at an "International Evening" dinner.

The event was overseen by the Finnish Olympic Committee and Vuokatti 2022 Organising Committee, with Sorokina expressing her delight that her country was able to send 26 athletes to the Winter EYOF, which is open to athletes aged 14 to 18, despite the ongoing conflict.

"From the bottom of the hearts of our athletes, coaches, their families, and all Ukrainian people, I want to thank you for making us feel alive," she said.

"The most important thing for every country is the youth.

"They are our future."

European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Spyros Capralos has praised the efforts of various National Olympic Committees (NOCs), including from hosts Finland, Poland, Italy and Austria, in ensuring Ukraine's presence at the multi-sport event.

Sorokina concurred with his remarks, and said the team had been made to feel very welcome around the venues in Vuokatti.

"Thank you for all your support, your kind words," the Chef de Mission said.

"I have received many warm messages during these challenging days.

"We really feel that you care about Ukraine.

Ukraine's team of 26 athletes has been well received at the Winter EYOF in Vuokatti ©Getty Images
Ukraine's team of 26 athletes has been well received at the Winter EYOF in Vuokatti ©Getty Images

"Sport is the main tool for the development of humankind values in our future generations.

"Without the big hearts of the other countries in Europe, it would not have been possible for the participation of our team this week.

"Of course, it is not about the results, it is about our gratitude for being able to continue the history of the Olympic Movement in Ukraine.

"We will never forget, we will always remember.

"Sport give us strength and unites us all.

"Thank you."

Representatives from the EOC Executive Committee and NOCs gave Sorokina a warm round of applause.

The Ukrainian athletes were also well received at the Opening Ceremony on Sunday (March 20).

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, which led to its and Belarus' ban from the majority of international sporting competitions including the Winter EYOF.

The United Nations has reported that at least 953 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the military offensive, although it is feared that the true figure is far higher, and more than 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine.