The boxing champion turned opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko visted Paris Friday along with fellow Ukrainian presidential hopeful Petro Poroshenko for a meeting with France’s François Hollande.
Later, the two men, expected to be among the frontrunners when the country elects a new leader on May 25, took part in a public debate on the situation in Ukraine.
More than a hundred Ukrainians living in France as well as French sympathisers gathered in the Saint-Germain-des-Près district to welcome the two men as they arrived for the packed symposium, organised by French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy.
After a minute’s silence for those who lost their lives in the Maidan protests that led to the ouster of former president Viktor Yanukovich, the two men delivered passionate speeches on Ukraine’s future and Russian troops’ takeover of the Crimea region.
Klitschko described Moscow’s actions as pure "Soviet propaganda" spurred by “the desire to rebuild an empire where there is no place for those who want to be free”.
Following his meeting with Klitschko, Hollande said the "international community, Europe and France must work to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine".
He also warned that it was necessary to prevent a dangerous precedent.
"There are a lot of countries which could get worried if a precedent were set for breaching borders and territorial integrity," Hollande said.
Klitschko shared that view saying that "the instability threatens not only Ukraine but also the whole region".
To support the Ukrainians, Poroshenko called for "using all the sanctions possible" against Russia, saying the solution to the crisis "is not to be found in Kiev, or in Crimea but in Moscow".
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
In pictures: Vitaly Klitschko visits Paris
Vitaly Klitschko applauds a speech by Petro Poroshenko, likely to be one of the former boxer’s biggest rivals in May's presidential election. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
Petro Poroshenko with Maidan protester Yelizaveta Shaposhnik. A teary-eyed Shaposhnik thanked the crowd for their support on behalf of all those involved in the Maidan demonstrations. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, who hosted the public symposium. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
Poroshenko, 48, was Ukraine’s foreign minister during the government of Yulia Tymoshenko. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
A heroin of the Maidan, Olesya Zhukovskaya spoke of her experience as a volunteer with medical teams during the revolt. On February 20th, she was shot in the neck by a sniper but miraculously survived. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
A Ukrainian woman in the audience holds a sign denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “dictator”. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
With every seat in the room filled, the audience spilled over into the aisles. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
Members of the press also turned out in large numbers. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
Klitschko and Poroshenko wave goodbye before heading back to Kiev. © Anne-Diandra Louarn
Date created : 2014-03-08