Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Kiev and former heavyweight boxer, says “we are preparing for any case” over tension with Russia


“If the escalation goes up … we must be ready to defend our country’s independence and integrity – and the civil defense has [sic] to be prepared, “Klitschko told CNN’s Lynda Kinkade on Connect the World on Wednesday.

“We hope this never happens [is] worst case, but we have to be prepared, “added the former world heavyweight champion.

There has been months of tension near the border between Ukraine and Russia, where more than 100,000 Russian soldiers have gathered.

Klitschko said he was “concerned” about Russian military forces at the border, but said it was a possibility that what he was witnessing was only a matter of optics, calling Russian tactics a “muscle game”.

Russia has not pledged to de-escalate after two rounds of diplomatic negotiations this week, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Wednesday.

Moscow demands security guarantees from the United States and NATO, including a binding promise that NATO will not expand further east and will not allow Ukraine to join the military alliance – something NATO is not willing to do.

During Wednesday’s four-hour meeting – which went further than planned – Sherman said the United States and its NATO allies made it clear that Russia’s demand that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO was a non-starter.

The talks with the NATO-Russia Council are the second of three sets of meetings this week. They are sandwiched between Monday’s negotiations between the United States and Russia and Thursday’s meeting between Russa and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Klitschko was a fierce world champion in heavyweight boxing before turning his hand to politics.

Klitschko criticized the negotiations in Switzerland and Belgium for not including Ukraine at a high level, calling it a “geopolitical” game.

“Everyone is talking about Ukraine without Ukraine,” Klitschko told CNN’s Lynda Kinkade on Connect the World on Wednesday.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said after Wednesday’s session that NATO’s behavior creates unacceptable risks for Russia. Klitschko described Grushko’s comments as a “political game”.

“Without weapons delivered to this region, without financial support, without propaganda, this conflict will never happen. Everything happens under the control of [the] Russian Federation, “said the former boxer.

Sherman called it “difficult to understand” how Russia could feel threatened by Ukraine when it has the largest conventional military in Europe.

‘Democratic European country’

Before entering politics, Klitschko was world champion in heavyweight boxing and retired with a record of 45 wins and only two losses.

He announced that he intended to run for the country’s presidency in 2015, but withdrew his bid and instead supported billionaire Petro Poroshenko, who served from 2014-2019 before being defeated by incumbent Volodymyr Zelensky.

Klitschko considers Zelensky a rival and has accused the president of sending state security agents to his home to put political pressure on him. The state security agency denied having intervened against him.

Prior to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Klitschko was a key opposition leader during protests against the neighbor’s invasion.

“In 2014, Ukraine decided to take a European direction for the development of our country. It is not [the] The Russian Federation and Mr. Putin are not happy with this decision because of his idea [is] to rebuild [the] The Soviet empire, “Klitschko said, referring to the Russian president.

“We will not return to [the] USSR. We see our future as [a] democratic European country. ”

Known as Dr. Ironfist, when he boxed because of his doctorate in sports science, Klitschko stands on an impressive 6-foot, 7-inch.

His brother Wladimir, five years younger, was also world champion and retired in 2017 after winning 64 of his 69 matches and retaining his heavyweight title for over nine years.

Klitschko is serving his second term at the helm of Kiev after beating a candidate, backed by Zelensky, to a fifth-place finish in October 2020.

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