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Europe

Ukraine’s political boxer defuses Kiev standoff

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-02

Vitaly Klitschko, the reigning WBC Heavyweight champion, is now a leading force in Ukraine’s opposition. On Sunday he made headlines after he used his muscle to end a potentially violent standoff between protesters and riot police.

Ukraine’s boxing star turned opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko on Sunday defused a potentially violent standoff between anti-government protesters and police in Kiev, convincing demonstrators not to storm the nearby Presidential Administration building.

Heavyweight champion Klitschko, who stands at 6ft, 7in tall and weighs104 kg, warned the demonstrators not to assault the building, ending a tense confrontation between protesters and the police.

“You have no business to be here… Don’t fall into a trap!” Klitschko yelled at the angry crowd.

A Los Angeles Time reporter at the scene described how the imposing figure shouted at the protesters to “get back”, pushing some of them with such force that they almost fell down.

The 42-year-old politician and other opposition figures eventually convinced most of the crowd to return to Kiev’s Independence Square, where the demonstration continued peacefully.

Kiev has been mired in its biggest protests since the 2004 “Orange Revolution”, after President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday snubbed what was set to be an historic trade agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.

The blame for his decision has been placed on Yanukovych’s closeness to Russia, and the economic punishments Moscow has threatened if Kiev becomes more closely linked to its western neighbours.

‘Dr Ironfist’

Klitschko is a leading opposition voice calling for closer ties with the EU, saying the European model is the only answer to Ukraine’s high unemployment and struggling economy.

He heads the pro-European Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (the party’s acronym UDAR means “punch”) and has said he will run for the presidency in 2015.

He is a vocal campaigner against corruption in Ukrainian politics. He wants lower taxes to stimulate Ukraine’s economy and he has taken part in rallies calling for jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to be released.

Nicknamed Dr Ironfist, Klitschko is the only professional boxer to have obtained a PhD – in Sports Science – which he got in 2000.

As of 2013, he remains the reigning WBC Heavyweight champion.

Date created : 2013-12-02

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