Vitali Klitschko sent a warning shot to Vladimir Putin and told the Russian dictator that he would be prepared to join Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline to defend the independence of Ukraine. Mr Klitschko, who has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014, also urged the UK and other western allies to send over advanced weapons so the country could fight back against Russian military aggression. The former boxer also told reporters that Ukraine needed to be “prepared” to defend itself which would involve “civil defences” from civilians.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, journalist Matt Frei spoke with the Ukrainian politician about the Russian military on the country’s border and wanted to know what Mr Klitschko would personally do in the case of an invasion.
Mr Klitschko responded: “As a former soldier, I am ready to defend my country, to defend the independence and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Mr Frei asked if he would fight on the front line with Mr Klitscho bluntly replying “Yes”.
The Channel 4 News presenter then asked what was required from western allies to fight back against Russian aggression.
He replied: “We need modern weapons, we need political support, we need unity with European countries.
“We see our future as a democratic country.”
Mr Klitschko ramped up his rhetoric against Russia following the conclusion of talks between NATO, the US and Putin.
He told CNN that Ukraine needed to prepare “for any case” as international powers seek to de-escalate the tensions on the border.
He said: “If escalation goes up … We have to be ready to defend our independence and integrity of our country.
“Civil defence also has to be prepared.
“We hope this never happens, this [is] worst case, but we have to be prepared.”
Russia has been building up forces along the Ukrainian border and has been conducting military exercises in the region which has spooked Ukraine into thinking another invasion may happen.
Russia met with US officials this week to thrash out demands which include an official pledge that NATO will not expand further eastwards towards Russia.
They also demand Ukraine be barred from joining NATO as the country has been campaigning to join for years.
Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, told Russia that the US and NATO would never bow down to their demands to bar Ukrainian membership of NATO.
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Mr Klitschko, among many other Ukrainian politicians, were frustrated that Ukraine did not play a huge role in the discussions.
He said: “Everybody is talking about Ukraine, without Ukraine.”
NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, told reporters at a press conference that were was “a real risk for a new armed conflict in Europe” following the conclusion of talks this week.
The Russian deputy defence minister, Alexander Fomin, reportedly said that relations with NATO were at a “critically low level” after little progress was made during the talks.
However, US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, admitted before the crunch talks this week he did not expect there would be any breakthrough but that further discussions could be planned which would be more substantive.