Klitschko Brothers, Oleksandr Usyk speak out against Russian invasion: ‘We have to stop this war’
While most Western governments have issued “do not travel” advisories to Ukraine, some notable figures don’t have a choice to avoid the region.
Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight champion turned mayor of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, has vowed to step up to the frontlines to resist against Russia’s invasion into the sovereign land, which began on Thursday.
“I don’t have any choice. I have to do that. I would fight,” the 50-year-old Klitschko (45-2, 41 knockouts) told Good Morning Britain, shortly after missile strikes and explosions near Ukraine’s major cities were reported.
Klitschko, who last fought in 2012, has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014, and was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2018.
The elder Klitschko brother slammed Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the same interview, accusing him of losing touch with reality and being driven solely by the desire to start an empire.
Wladimir Klitschko, the mayor’s younger brother, who himself was also a heavyweight champion, took an additional step earlier this month, enlisting in Ukraine’s reserve army in preparation of the Russian incursion. Their father, Vladimir Rodionovic Klitschko, was a Soviet Air Force major general, and was among the commanders in charge of overseeing cleaning up following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
“The world is watching how reckless and deadly imperialism is, not just for Ukraine but the whole world. Let history be a lesson to not be repeated,” tweeted Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) on Thursday morning.
'I don't have another choice. I have to do that.'
The Mayor of Kyiv @Vitaliy_Klychko tells @richardgaisford that it is 'already a bloody war' and he is prepared to fight for his country. pic.twitter.com/KvoGP5f92C
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) February 24, 2022
The two heavyweight greats have been among the most outspoken public voices bringing light to the rapidly deteriorating situation, where 160 missiles were reportedly fired from Russian troops on the first day of the invasion, according to reports from a U.S. defense source. Ukraine’s Health Minister Oleh Lyashko said late Thursday that 57 people had been killed and 169 wounded were wounded from the strikes.
Wladimir Klitschko continued to rally calls in support of democracy, tweeting out a thread entitled “No democracy without democrats,” where he said the invasion was “not only the result of one man’s madness, but also the result of years of weakness in Western democracies.”
Wladimir Klitschko called on people around the world to organize “huge demonstrations” to voice their opposition to the war in Ukraine. Those calls were heeded around the world, including in Moscow, where anti-war protesters were arrested for demonstrating in the Russian capital.
“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,” wrote Wladimir Klitschko, who retired in 2017 and was inducted into the IBHOF in 2021.
1/4 “No democracy without democrats“
Putin makes it clear that he wants to destroy the Ukrainian state and the sovereignty of its people. Words are followed by missiles and tanks. Destruction and death come upon us. That's it, blood will mix with tears.
— Klitschko (@Klitschko) February 24, 2022
The Klitschko brothers are not the only Ukrainian heavyweight champions who are impacted by the full-scale invasion.
Oleksandr Usyk, holder of the WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles, has been unable to return to his training base outside of Kiev due to the invasion. Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs), the former undisputed cruiserweight champion from Shypyntsi, Ukraine, upset Anthony Joshua last September to win three of the four major heavyweight titles, and is expected to face Joshua in a rematch later this year.
Usyk’s team has “no idea” how he’ll prepare ahead of the mandatory rematch, Alex Krassyuk of K2 Promotions told Sportsmail, “but coming back to Ukraine is impossible.”
Usyk voiced his support for his country on Thursday, releasing an Instagram video entitled “NO WAR.” Usyk says he has returned to Ukraine after traveling for business, and has called for Ukrainians to unite amid the escalating war.
“I am very worried about my country. For a lot of our people. Friends, we have to stop this war, and…. we have to do this. All together,” said Usyk, according to a translation from Reddit.
Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight champion from Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine, offered a prayer for “peace of the whole world” and “enlightenment” on Instagram Thursday.
Aside from Usyk, the only other current boxing champion from Ukraine is WBA flyweight titleholder Artem Dalakian. Dalakian has made five title defenses since winning the belt in 2018, all of which were in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler, Vice and The Guardian, and holds a Master’s degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]
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