Klitschko brothers take defiant stand as Russia assaults Kyiv

Mayor of Kyiv and his younger brother vow to defend hometown

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, right, and his brother, Wladimir, stand at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital. AFP
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Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his younger brother, Wladimir — both former heavyweight boxing world champions — have taken a defiant stand during the Russian attack on their homeland.

The Ukrainian brothers have the means and the ability to escape, but have remained in their hometown as Russian forces continue to advance towards the capital.

For the siblings who spent much of their lives in a boxing ring squaring off against some of the toughest men on the planet, leaving was never an option.

“It's our homeland, it's our home town,” Vitali Klitschko told The Washington Post in a 30-minute interview alongside his brother. “We don't want to leave, we want to live in our home where our parents, grandparents, relatives are.”

The brothers spoke hours after a Russian air strike destroyed a large shopping mall in Kyiv.

Russian bombs have hit more than 70 buildings, including preschools, in Kyiv, said the 50-year-old Mr Klitschko.

About 1,000 civilians have been killed since the conflict began and thousands more have been injured, the latest figures from the UN show, though the real numbers are likely to be considerably higher.

Russian forces surround Kyiv on three sides and have stepped up efforts to take the capital in recent days.

One dead after Russian shelling, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says

One dead after Russian shelling, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says

But the brothers are adamant that despite the threat from the superior fighting force, Kyiv will never fall.

“As mayor of the capital of Ukraine, I can promise everyone the Russian army, the Russian soldiers will never, ever come to our home town,” the elder Klitchsko said.

Wladimir, 45, who joined Kyiv's Territorial Defence Force immediately after Russia began its military invasion on February 24, said the civilian fighting force is strong and better prepared after nearly a month of war.

“The spirit is as strong as it could be because we have one goal, one target: we want to live in a peaceful country,” the younger brother said.

He accused Russia of committing war crimes against Ukrainian civilians and called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “mad man”.

He said Russia’s decision to invade will prove to be calamitous and precipitate a major change in the country.

“It's like a cancer that got into the body of Russia and it is going to eat it from inside out,” he said.

The brothers pleaded with the West for more weapons and said that with the right firepower, Ukraine could close the sky itself.

“We need to protect the sky above us, so we need this high-tech equipment and that is what I would ask [for],” said the younger Klitchsko.

The US and Nato have resisted calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to enact a no-fly zone over Ukraine for fears of broadening the conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

Last week, the US agreed to send an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine including anti-aircraft Stinger missiles.

Updated: March 21, 2022, 3:33 PM