Former heavyweight boxing champions Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are vowing to protect Ukraine by fighting on the front lines.
Vitali, who has been the mayor of the country’s capital, Kyiv, since 2014, told Good Morning Britain on Thursday, February 24 — the day Russia attacked Ukraine — that he will stand next to his fellow citizens to fight for his country in this “bloody war.”
“I don’t have another choice. I have to do that. I will be fighting,“ the Hall of Fame athlete explained, adding, “I believe in Ukraine, I believe in my country, I believe in my people.”
Both Vitali, 50, and younger brother Wladimir, 45 — who enlisted in the Ukraine army reserves earlier this month — have condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attack on Ukraine.
The brothers released a joint video on Thursday, issuing a call to action for “all international partners to observe this tragedy that is happening nowadays in Ukraine, and this senseless war that is not going to have any winners, but losers,” Wladimir stated. “I just want to tell you we must stay united, against … Russian aggression. Don’t let it … continue happening in Ukraine, don’t let it happen in Europe, and eventually in the world.”
“United we’re strong,” he added, concluding, “Support Ukraine.”
The same day, Wladimir, who shares 7-year-old daughter Kaya with ex-fiancée Hayden Panettiere, shared an impassioned essay on LinkedIn about the war on his country, encouraging everyone to stand up for democracy.
“We will defend ourselves with all our might and fight for freedom and democracy,” he wrote. “You can also act. Let not fear seize us; let’s not remain frozen.”
The Hall of Fame boxer also offered suggestions for how to help Ukraine during this time.
“You can do something by mobilizing and organizing huge demonstrations,” the athlete continued. “Make your voice heard. Make the voice of democracy heard. Say it loud and clear that international law and democracy are under attack, that war is the greatest evil and that life is sacred.”
Wladimir and Panettiere split in August 2018, and daughter Kaya has grown up in Ukraine with her dad — where she has “a lot of friends,” a source told Us Weekly in October 2019.
The insider noted at the time that “Hayden frequently travels [there] to see her daughter,” and “often” FaceTimes with her.
In February 2019, the Nashville star told Us that she and Wladimir are raising Kaya with both “book smarts and street smart[s],” adding that the former couple’s “friendship with each other” helps them do “a really good job” coparenting together.