Wladimir Klitschko In The Fight Of His Life In Ukraine

Wladimir Klitschko And The State Of Ukraine

Wladimir Klitschko in military gear and holding the Ukrainian flag.
Wladimir Klitschko

Wladimir Klitschko Joins Defense Against Russia

One of the giants of modern boxing, Wladimir Klitschko had achieved plenty in his sporting career to ensure him fame and fortune. However, a peaceful retirement became impossible when the forces of Russia invaded his native Ukraine and put him in the fight of his life!

From the Ring to a Warzone

The name of “Klitschko” looms large in heavyweight boxing circles, as Wladimir and his brother Vitali (now mayor of Kyiv), dominated the category for over a decade. Combining deft footwork and good technique with alarming knockout power and towering at six and a half feet tall, Wladimir was a formidable presence in the ring and fully deserved his nickname of “Dr. Steelhammer”. He retired in 2017, and despite speculation regarding a potential 2019 comeback hasn’t been in the ring since. But a one-on-one fight in a controlled environment, even one as inherently violent and dangerous as boxing, is a world away from the war that has come to Klitschko’s home country of Ukraine in early 2022.

Now, Klitschko is fighting not only for himself, but for the very survival of his country, and the freedom of millions of people. Ukraine has been a sovereign nation since 1991, but Russia (and especially its current leader, Vladimir Putin) has continued to regard the country as part of its sphere of influence. This has led to continual meddling in the political world all the way through to the 2014 invasion that annexed Crimea and portions of eastern Ukraine. While massed Russian troops east of the border did give a prolonged warning of imminent invasion in 2022, nobody expected the scale to be as large as the military incursion would prove to be.

Klitschko has referred to Putin’s attitude as one of hankering after the days of the USSR. He now serves in a defensive unit in Kyiv, the nation’s capital, and which (at the time of writing) Russian forces are attempting to encircle. So far, the attempt has not been entirely successful, which enables supplies to come in, but this may change in the near future. Klitschko has some pretty blunt language for those attempting to take Ukraine, warning that people will resist and advising the invaders to “F- off”.

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The 2014 Invasion

In 2014, Russian forces invaded and annexed Crimea, in southern Ukraine. In a similar move, pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declared their independence. This war was entirely one-sided and may explain both sides’ differing approaches to the most recent conflict. Russia had a very easy time asserting their territorial claims via overwhelming military power, and Ukraine was too weak to resist. This appears to have led to Russian overconfidence eight years later, and Ukraine has benefited from years of training from outside forces (such as the UK) and military supplies from numerous nations (drones from Turkey and anti-aircraft weaponry from many countries).

The 2022 Invasion – Russian Overconfidence?

Russian forces were perched on the border for many weeks. Others leaving temporarily to take part in “training exercises” in Belarus (a Russian ally that borders Ukraine). In the event, the assault was launched from both Russian and Belarusian territory, and on a scale that surpassed most forecasts. Initial fears were that Ukraine might be overrun, but progress turned out to be far slower as the well-prepared Ukrainians dug in and fought back.

One thing that Putin may not have expected is the sheer iron will of the Ukrainian people to resist. Even before the war kicked off, ordinary homeowners in one Ukrainian city spent a day in the park making Molotov cocktails with which to greet any aggressors. Cheering smiles as “liberators” were welcomed proved to be a sad fantasy of the Kremlin, while ferocious resistance (and much cunning opportunism from Ukrainian tractor drivers, who have claimed many a Russian military vehicle) have instead been the response of the Ukrainian people. Klitschko described the Ukrainian spirit as amazing, but remains utterly perplexed by the thinking of Russia, which he considers unimaginable.

The West has not gotten involved directly, but has imposed severe sanctions on Russia, and many suspect the war is now a race between the military destruction of Ukraine and the economic destruction of Russia. Sporting sanctions have also applied in football, Formula 1, and boxing. Klitschko himself has called for every Russian athlete to be banned from participating in sport to increase pressure on the country.

Attacking Homes

Many expected the far larger Russian forces to steamroll Ukrainian resistance, and when this didn’t happen, and Ukrainian resolve remained undiminished (aided by many foreign weapons getting shipped in from multiple sources) the Russian tactics changed. Artillery and bombing assaults were aimed on civilian areas, destroying the homes of ordinary people in wanton acts of destruction without any military aspect whatsoever. Klitschko likened Putin’s acts to the Nazis, contrasting the Russian leader’s absurd claim to be freeing the Ukrainians from Nazis to Putin’s own actions.

Klitschko is still in Kyiv, the city his brother runs, although, half the population has left. Today, the atmosphere in the city is one of undimmed resolve yet the constant air raid sirens and explosions means sleep for him, and the other residents is scarce. It’s not only civilian casualties keeping him awake at night. Putin was universally condemned when the Russian forces attacked Chernobyl, and there are other nuclear power plants that may also be at risk.

At the moment, supplies can still reach the city, and Klitschko has been able to leverage his own star power to raise over $100m for aid. But what he says the country needs is more military support, in the form of weaponry and protective equipment. It may be on that the fate of the war eventually turns.

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