Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko delivered a verbal blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the former boxer began training with Ukrainian military reservists amid mounting tensions between the countries.
Klitschko, now mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kiev, has described Putin as “gangrene” plaguing Europe, as fears grow that Russia plans to invade the ex-boxer’s home country .
Klitschko, 50, elected mayor in 2014, made the comments to the Daily Telegraph after participating in military simulations and tactical training exercises as Russia gathers forces on the Ukrainian border.
“Many of us served in the military and those skills had to be restored. I think such training is essential for high and middle officials in a country which has been at war for almost eight years, ”Klitschko told the newspaper.
The 6’7 ″ doctorate nicknamed “Dr. Ironfist, ”reportedly said its pugnacious past would serve Ukraine’s largest city well in the event of conflict.
“I think these are more of the character traits that all professional athletes share. Self-discipline, meticulousness, persistence and a strong sense of focus are key principles that help you be successful no matter what you do, ”he told The Telegraph.
“When it comes to my celebrity status, my connections are very helpful and give me a big advantage,” he added. “Because Ukraine cannot overcome the difficult challenges it faces without reliable friends and partners.”
The 100,000 Ukrainian military reservists would be divided into 25 units tasked with protecting key sites and maintaining order in times of war.
Russia began sending forces and heavy military equipment to its western border with Ukraine in April, as Putin threatens to reclaim the country of 44 million people, which was once part of the Soviet Union.
US President Joe Biden said on Friday he warned Putin in a 50-minute phone call that any attack would be subject to “severe penalties.”
“I made it clear to President Putin that we will have severe sanctions, that we will increase our presence in Europe, with NATO allies,” said the president.
Klitschko took office during Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which UN leaders declared illegal. An ongoing civil war between government forces and pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine has left more than 14,000 dead.