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25th Feb 2022

Klitschko brothers to take up arms to defend Ukraine from Russian invasion

Simon Lloyd

“I don’t have another choice, I have to do that. I’ll be fighting.”

Legendary former heavyweight boxers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have vowed to take up arms to help defend their homeland of Ukraine in the face of the intensifying Russian invasion.

Russia launched a full scale invasion by land, air and sea before dawn on Thursday after President Vladimir Putin announced a declaration of war. Putin had initially said he would be sending troops to perform “peacekeeping” functions in the rebel-held regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, which he said Moscow would recognise their independence.

Vitali, the former heavyweight champion, has been mayor of Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, since 2014. He said he was willing to join the fight to protect his country, admitting he had no alternative but to do so.

“I don’t have another choice, I have to do that,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain. “I’ll be fighting.”

“I believe in Ukraine, I believe in my country and I believe in my people,” the 50-year-old added.

Vitali’s younger brother Wladimir, also a former heavyweight champion, confirmed that he had enlisted for Ukraine’s reserve army earlier this month.

In a LinkedIn post on Thursday, he said: “The Ukrainian people are strong. And it will remain true to itself in this terrible ordeal. A people longing for sovereignty and peace. A people who consider the Russian people their brothers.

“It knows that they basically do not want this war. The Ukrainian people have chosen democracy.

“But: Democracy is a fragile regime. Democracy cannot defend itself; it needs the will of the citizens, the commitment of everyone. Basically, there is no democracy without democrats.”

The siblings had appeared together in a video earlier in the week in which they appealed to Ukraine’s international partners to show their support for the country.

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