The Klitschko brothers, heavyweight boxing champions turned defenders of Ukraine, have warned European leaders that they must unite in outright opposition to Russia or face destabilization of the continent.
Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of kyiv, and his younger brother Wladimir, who heads their charitable foundation, met with political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
They told Sky News that a concerted effort to cut off Russian oil and gas supplies, to impose tougher sanctions on Moscow’s banks and businesses and a sports boycott was necessary to liberate Ukraine.
Vitali Klitschko said: “I have a message for every politician right now in Europe, here in Davos, and for everyone in Europe and around the world. If anyone sees war as somewhere far away, he sees that the war does not affect me personally, they make the biggest mistake.
“This war can destabilize the situation in the whole region. This war can harm everyone in Europe. This is why we need the unity of all countries at this time. This is the key to peace. .
“It is very important to be united, it is very important to stop the war, to be united, to commit to stopping Russia, to take sanctions, it is very important that Ukraine is a country free, democratic, independent with territorial integrity.”
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Wladimir Klitschko said the developing world was facing food shortages following the Russian action, adding its voice to calls for the opening of a humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea to allow grain exports.
“The consequences of this war are very frightening,” he said. “Ukraine is one of the biggest suppliers of grain to Africa and Asia and with the blockage of the Black Sea we will be hungry in these regions. It is not only these regions, or Ukraine , it’s not just a war that’s localized, it’s going to spread more.”
He also called for a full Russian sports boycott of world events, urging the International Olympic Committee to kick them out of the next Olympics.
“Here in Switzerland, at the IOC in Lausanne, the decision must be made to isolate Russia from the next Olympics, to show Russia that these war crimes must be stopped. This can never happen again, but the most importantly, this needs to be stopped, because every day it continues more people are dying.”
The Klitschkos spent three days at the World Economic Forum seeking political and business support for the war effort, lending their profile and political status to a large Ukrainian diplomatic delegation here.
Vitali Klitschko said kyiv was returning to something close to normality, with cafes reopening and some work life returning despite the constant threat of Russian missiles.
the Russian bombardment of cities in the Donbass region continues however and the brothers reacted to footage shot by Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford and his team in Severodonetsk.
“War has a horrible face,” Wladimir said. “We saw all these corpses of young women and older men being killed, you can tell they were tortured and executed with bullets to the head with their hands tied behind their backs.
“And this war was started by Russia. Russia is trying to justify why this war was started, so the isolation of Russia from the world is extremely important.”
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When asked if Ukraine will win the biggest battle he and his brother have faced, Vitali replied: “What other choice do we have? To give up? It’s not an option.
“We are fighting for our future, for our families, for our country. And we are more than certain of that. We will stop this war and Ukraine will be freed from the aggressors, and Ukraine will be part of the European democratic family.”