Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko and brother Wladimir ready to fight in the streets

Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko, right, and his brother Wladimir, both former world heavyweight boxing champions, in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo)
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Updated 01 March 2022

Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko and brother Wladimir ready to fight in the streets

  • Vitali Klitschko has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014, two years after he finally called it quits on a boxing career that earned him an Olympic gold medal and a world title
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted, along with a picture of the brothers: ‘I am thinking of you, my friends — you were my heroes in the ring and you’re my heroes now’

The two big men standing shoulder to shoulder in a photo taken Sunday in the mayor’s office in beleaguered Kyiv, Ukraine, were instantly recognizable to most boxing fans. Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, the sons of a Soviet major general, are both former heavyweight champions and whenever one was in the ring, the other was always helping from the corner.
Now they’re in a fight unlike any they ever imagined. The prize for this one isn’t a gaudy championship belt but the survival of their country.
Vitali Klitschko is helping lead it as mayor of Kyiv. His younger brother plays the role of chief second.
They’re a formidable pair, ready to do whatever it takes to defend their country against invading Russians. So far that hasn’t included armed combat, but both have made it clear they will fight in the streets if it comes to that.
And, in a rich Ukrainian boxing community, they’re not alone.
Vasiliy Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who some consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, hastily flew home from Greece to don combat fatigues as a member of a defense battalion. He was pictured on his official Facebook page over the weekend with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder near Odessa.
“The Belgorod-Dnestrovsky Territorial Defense Battalion has been formed and armed,” the caption read. “In the territorial defense, boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko informed the mayor.”
The current heavyweight champion is also in on the fight. Oleksandr Usyk returned home from London when Russia invaded his country and, instead of preparing for a possible rematch against Anthony Joshua this spring, he is getting ready to fight against Russians in his native land.
Both are potentially losing million dollar paydays — in Usyk’s case, the biggest purse of his career in a rematch with Joshua. But defending a belt and defending a country are two very different things.
On Sunday, Usyk posed not with gloves but an automatic rifle, flanked by three other armed men in the Kyiv Territorial Defense force.
They’re all great fighters with proud legacies in the ring. When Wladimir Klitschko last fought in 2017, he and Joshua engaged in a thrilling knockdown bout before 90,000 at Wembley Stadium in London. Klitschko came off the canvas that night to deck the British champion before ultimately being stopped by the younger fighter.
And people in boxing still talk about Vitali Klitschko nearly getting the upper hand on Lennox Lewis in their heavyweight clash in Los Angeles in 2003 that ended only because the ring doctor stopped it when there was so much blood flowing down Klitschko’s face he couldn’t see.
None of the Ukrainian prizefighters ever backed down with gloves on. And they show no sign of backing down now, even with so much stacked up against them.
“Go back home,” Vitali said when asked what he would tell Russian soldiers. “You have nothing to find here.”
Usyk was even more blunt with his message.
“You are not at war with our government, our army,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “You are at war with the people. This is our land. We are at home.”
Vitali Klitschko has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014, two years after he finally called it quits on a boxing career that earned him an Olympic gold medal and a world title. His brother was arguably even more successful, holding pieces of the heavyweight title while going 11 years without a defeat.
They grew up fighting in the Soviet amateur system and, while their technical styles didn’t endear them to boxing fans everywhere, they were extremely popular in Germany where they sold out arenas and stadiums for big fights.
They’re also very smart. Both have advanced college degrees and speak four languages.
And both have friends in high places.
“I am thinking of you, my friends,” actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted, along with a picture of the brothers. “You were my heroes in the ring and you’re my heroes now.”
On the Boxrec.com website that is the closest thing boxing has to a record book, the home page on Monday featured a picture of Vitali Klitschko holding an automatic rifle above the ratings.
“#1 — Vitali Klitschko,” the caption read.
Sadly, this is war, not sport. There is no referee, very few rules and extremely deadly weapons.
Still, with Russian troops threatening the city on Sunday, the brothers tried to stay upbeat inside the mayor’s office even as Vitali Klitschko warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as the city’s food and medicine supplies dry up.
“Right now, the most important question is to defend our country,” said the former heavyweight champion.


Air raid warning issued over all Ukraine – Ukrainian officials

Updated 01 December 2022

Air raid warning issued over all Ukraine – Ukrainian officials

  • Border service: ‘An overall air raid alert is in place in Ukraine. Go to shelters’

Air raid alerts were issued across all of Ukraine on Thursday following warnings by Ukrainian officials that Russia was preparing a new wave of missile and drone strikes.
“An overall air raid alert is in place in Ukraine. Go to shelters,” country’s border service wrote on Telegram messaging app.


China eases some COVID-19 controls

Updated 01 December 2022

China eases some COVID-19 controls

  • Major cities are easing testing requirements and controls on movement
  • With a heavy police presence, there is no indication of protests

BEIJING: More Chinese cities eased some anti-virus restrictions as police patrolled their streets to head off protests Thursday while the ruling Communist Party prepared for the high-profile funeral of late leader Jiang Zemin.
Guangzhou in the south, Shijiazhuang in the north, Chengdu in the southwest and other major cities announced they were easing testing requirements and controls on movement. In some areas, markets and bus service reopened.
The announcements didn’t mention last weekend’s protests in Shanghai, Beijing and at least six other cities against the human cost of anti-virus restrictions that confine millions of people to their homes. But the timing and publicity suggested President Xi Jinping’s government was trying to mollify public anger after some protesters made the politically explosive demand that Xi resign.
With a heavy police presence, there was no indication of protests. Notes on social media complained that people were being stopped at random for police to check smartphones, possibly looking for prohibited apps such as Twitter, in what they said was a violation of China’s Constitution.
“I am especially afraid of becoming the ‘Xinjiang model’ and being searched on the excuse of walking around,” said a posting signed Qi Xiaojin on the popular Sina Weibo platform, referring to the northwestern region where Uyghur and other Muslim minorities are under intense surveillance.
Protesters have used Twitter and other foreign social media to publicize protests while the Communist Party deletes videos and photos from services within China.
On Thursday, the government reported 36,061 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, including 31,911 without symptoms.
Meanwhile, Beijing was preparing for the funeral of Jiang, who was ruling party leader until 2002 and president until the following year. The party announced he died Wednesday in Shanghai of leukemia and multiple organ failure.
No foreign dignitaries will be invited in line with Chinese tradition, the party announced. It has yet to set a date for the funeral or announce how it might be affected by anti-virus controls.
Xi’s government has promised to reduce the disruption of its “zero COVID-19” strategy by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But it says it will stick to restrictions that have repeatedly shut down schools and businesses and suspended access to neighborhoods.
The protests began Friday after at least 10 people were killed in a fire in an apartment building in Urumqi in Xinjiang. That prompted questions about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other controls. Authorities denied that, but the deaths became a focus for public frustration.
The government says it is making restrictions more targeted and flexible, but a spike in infections since October has prompted local officials who are threatened with the loss of their jobs if an outbreak occurs to impose controls that some residents say are excessive and destructive.


UN launches record $51.5bn emergency funding appeal

Updated 01 December 2022

UN launches record $51.5bn emergency funding appeal

  • United Nations: 339 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year
  • UN aid chief Martin Griffiths: ‘next year is going to be the biggest humanitarian program’ the world has ever seen

GENEVA: The UN appealed for record funds for aid next year, as the Ukraine war and other conflicts, climate emergencies and the still-simmering pandemic push more people into crisis, and some toward famine.
The United Nations’ annual Global Humanitarian Overview estimated that 339 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year — a staggering 65 million more people than the estimate a year ago.
“It’s a phenomenal number and it’s a depressing number,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva, adding that it meant “next year is going to be the biggest humanitarian program” the world has ever seen.
If all the people in need of emergency assistance were in one country, it would be the third-largest nation in the world, after China and India, he said.
And the new estimate means that one in 23 people will need help in 2023, compared to one in 95 back in 2015.
As the extreme events seen in 2022 spill into 2023, Griffiths described the humanitarian needs as “shockingly high.”
“Lethal droughts and floods are wreaking havoc in communities from Pakistan to the Horn of Africa,” he said, also pointing to the war in Ukraine, which “has turned a part of Europe into a battlefield.”
The annual appeal by UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations said that providing aid to the 230 million most vulnerable people across 68 countries would require a record $51.5 billion.
That was up from the $41 billion requested for 2022, although the sum has been revised up to around $50 billion during the year — with less than half of that sought-for amount funded.
“For people on the brink, this appeal is a lifeline,” Griffiths said.
The report presented a depressing picture of soaring needs brought on by a range of conflicts, worsening instability and a deepening climate crisis.
“There is no doubt that 2023 is going to perpetuate these on-steroids trends,” Griffiths warned.
The overlapping crises have already left the world dealing with the “largest global food crisis in modern history,” the UN warned.
It pointed out that at least 222 million people across 53 countries were expected to face acute food insecurity by the end of this year, with 45 million of them facing the risk of starvation.
“Five countries already are experiencing what we call famine-like conditions, in which we can confidently, unhappily, say that people are dying as a result,” Griffiths said.
Those countries — Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia and South Sudan — have seen portions of their populations face “catastrophic hunger” this year, but have not yet seen country-wide famines declared.
Forced displacement is meanwhile surging, with the number of people living as refugees, asylum seekers or displaced inside their own country passing 100 million — over one percent of the global population — for the first time this year.
“And all of this on top of the devastation left by the pandemic among the world’s poorest,” Griffiths said, also pointing to outbreaks of mpox, previously known as monkeypox, Ebola, cholera and other diseases.
Conflicts have taken a dire toll on a range of countries, not least on Ukraine, where Russia’s full-scale invasion in February has left millions in dire need.
The global humanitarian plan will aim to provide $1.7 billion in cash assistance to 6.3 million people inside the war-torn country, and also $5.7 billion to help the millions of Ukrainians and their host communities in surrounding countries.
More than 28 million people are meanwhile considered to be in need in drought-hit Afghanistan, which last year saw the Taliban sweep back into power, while another eight million Afghans and their hosts in the region also need assistance.
More than $5 billion has been requested to address that combined crisis, while further billions were requested to help the many millions of people impacted by the years-long conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The appeal also highlighted the dire situation in Ethiopia, where worsening drought and a two-year-conflict in Tigray have left nearly 29 million people in desperate need of assistance.
Faced with such towering needs, Griffiths said he hoped 2023 would be a year of “solidarity, just as 2022 has been a year of suffering.”

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Ten killed in bombing of Afghan religious school — Taliban official

Updated 30 November 2022

Ten killed in bombing of Afghan religious school — Taliban official

  • No group has claimed responsibility, though Daesh has been waging violence in Afghanistan
  • Samangan province, where the incident took place, has a majority population of ethnic Uzbeks

ISLAMABAD: A bomb blast hit a religious school in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least 10 students, a Taliban official said.

The explosion went off at around the time of afternoon prayers at the Al Jihad Madrassa in Aybak, capital of Samangan province, a resident of the city who heard the explosion told The Associated Press. Most of the students at the school are young boys, said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for his own safety.

Video distributed by the Taliban to the media showed the blast site, a hall littered with debris, mats and shoes, with dead bodies and bloodstains on the floor. Sirens can be heard in the background and men, some of them armed, move through the hall surveying the explosion’s aftermath.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor said a number of students were wounded in the attack. Samangan province has a majority population of ethnic Uzbeks.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the Afghan affiliate of the Daesh group has been waging a campaign of violence that escalated since the Taliban took power in August 2021.

Daesh has carried out bombings targeting in particular Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslim minority but has also targeted Sunni mosques and madrassas, especially ones connected to the Taliban. The Taliban and the Daesh group both adhere to a hard-line ideology but are bitter rivals.


EU proposal would send proceeds of frozen Russian funds to Ukraine

Updated 30 November 2022

EU proposal would send proceeds of frozen Russian funds to Ukraine

  • Moscow says seizing its funds or those of its citizens amounts to theft
  • "Russia must ... pay financially for the devastation that it caused," Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU's executive said

BRUSSELS: The European Commission proposed a plan on Wednesday to compensate Ukraine for damage from Russia’s invasion with proceeds from investing Russian funds frozen under sanctions.
Officials in the EU, United States and other Western countries have long debated whether Ukraine can benefit from frozen Russian assets, including around $300 billion of Russia’s central bank reserves and $20 billion held by blacklisted Russians.
Moscow says seizing its funds or those of its citizens amounts to theft.
“Russia must ... pay financially for the devastation that it caused,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive said in a statement.
“The damage suffered by Ukraine is estimated at 600 billion euros. Russia and its oligarchs have to compensate Ukraine for the damage and cover the costs for rebuilding the country.”
European Commission officials said that one short-term option for Western nations would be to create a fund to manage and invest liquid assets of the central bank, and use the proceeds to support Ukraine.
The assets would be returned to their owners when sanctions were lifted, which could be part of a peace agreement that ensured Ukraine received compensation for damages.
“It’s not easy so it will require strong backing from the international community but we believe it is doable,” one official said.
With regard to the frozen assets of private individuals and entities, seizing these is usually only legally possible where there is a criminal conviction.
The Commission has proposed that violations of sanctions could be classified as an offense that would allow confiscation.
Von der Leyen also said that the Commission was proposing the establishment of a specialized court, backed by the United Nations, “to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression.”
Moscow denies its invasion, which it calls a “special military operation,” constitutes aggression, a war crime under international law.