A brewing international crisis has captivated the world in recent days as Russia amassed tens of thousands of troops, as well as massive amounts of weapons, on its border with Ukraine ahead of a likely invasion.
One of the most famous Ukrainians in the world noticed this and is ready to do his part to stop the aggression.
Wladimir Klitschko, a former heavyweight champion and Boxing Hall of Famer, enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army on Wednesday and explained why he puts his proverbial money where his mouth is.
“In a neighborhood here, my granddaughter goes to school. The school is currently closed because the ambassadors sent the families home,” Klitschko, 45, told Reuters. “It’s love, love for my city, my home, my family, my neighbours, my daughter who brought me here today, that I took this initiative and that I am now participating in this territorial defence.”
Klitschko’s brother, fellow heavyweight champion and Hall of Fame inductee Vitali, who is mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine, was present at his enlistment, offering hope for a diplomatic solution, but also a somber ” we must be prepared to take up arms and defend the country” if diplomacy fails.
Tensions have escalated in this international dispute in recent weeks, culminating in Russia piling soldiers and armaments along the border and the international community responding with its own physical and tactical support. On Thursday, the United States pledged to send 3,000 additional troops to Eastern Europe to bolster NATO forces.
“I can’t sit still,” Klitschko told CNBC, in reference to his direct and practical response to the potential crisis.
“I enlisted as a reserve for the territorial forces, to defend the city of Kiev…because of everything that is currently happening around Ukraine…Aggression from the Russian side.
“For weeks, even months, there have been reports of the gravity of the situation…Before our enemies attack Ukraine, they must see that we are strong…They must see how strong we are. no matter how strong we will be, it will be a very painful price for everyone.”
By Western estimates, Russia has amassed around 130,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and is building the kind of weaponry and logistical structures that suggest an increased likelihood of battle.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of trying to stir up hysteria and incite Russia into conflict. Putin says his buildup on the Ukrainian border is a direct response to the proposal to make Ukraine a NATO member, which he says is a blatant effort to ‘contain Russia’ and ‘undermine security of Russia”.
“Let’s imagine that Ukraine is a member of NATO, that it is full of weapons, that it obtains advanced means of attack like those of Poland and Romania and that it launches an operation in Crimea” , Putin said, referring to Crimea, a part of Ukraine that was violently claimed by Russia in 2014, under the pretext that it was “Russian sovereign territory”.
“Let’s imagine that Ukraine is a NATO member state and launches a military operation. What should we do then, [should we] fight against the NATO bloc? Has anyone thought at least something about this? Apparently not.”
Regardless of the politics involved, this conflict would be major and involve many of the world’s greatest military powers. The toll would be heavy for all parties and, from a human point of view, tragedies would abound. This potential flashpoint of war was certainly enough to spur Wladimir Klitschko into action.
“I believe sometimes the West shows weakness in certain situations,” Klitschko said. “We need to be more united and protect each other and protect our interests, protect our democracy that we are fighting for and developing in the western world.”