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Klitschko Enlists in Ukraine Army Ahead of Russian Invasion

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A brewing international crisis has captivated the world in recent days as Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops, as well as massive amounts of weaponry, on their border with the Ukraine ahead of a likely invasion.

One of the world’s most famous Ukraine natives has taken notice and is willing to do his part to stop the aggression.

Former heavyweight champ and boxing Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army on Wednesday and has been vocal as to why he’s putting his proverbial money where his mouth is.

“One district from here, my little girl is going to school. The school is currently closed because the ambassadors have sent the families home,” the 45-year-old Klitschko told Reuters. “It is the love, the love for my city, my home, my family, my neighbors, my daughter that has brought me here today, that I took this initiative and am now taking part in this territorial defense.”

Klitschko’s brother, fellow heavyweight champ and Hall of Fame inductee, Vitali, who is mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine, was in attendance at his enlistment, offering up hope for a diplomatic solution, but also a somber “we have to prepare to take weapons in our hands, and defend the country” if diplomacy falls through.

Tensions have escalated in this international dispute in recent weeks, culminating in Russia stacking up soldiers and armament along the border and the international community responding by offering up their own physical and tactical support. On Thursday, the United States committed to sending 3,000 additional troops to Eastern Europe to fortify NATO forces.

“I can’t sit still,” Klitschko told CNBC, in reference to his direct, hands-on response to the potential crisis.

“I signed up as a reserve for the territorial forces, for defending the city of Kiev…because of everything that is currently going on around Ukraine…The aggression from the Russian side.

“For weeks if not months, there have been reports on how serious this is…Before our enemies make an attack against Ukraine they have to see we are strong…They have to see how strong we will be, it will be a very painful price for everyone.”

By Western estimates, Russia has amassed approximately 130,000 troops at the Ukraine border and is putting in place the kind of weaponry and logistic structures that suggest an increased likelihood of battle.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has accused the West of trying to stir up hysteria and goad Russia into conflict. Putin says that his build-up on the Ukraine border is a direct response to the proposal to make the Ukraine a member of NATO, something which he says is a blatant effort to “contain Russia” and “undermine Russia’s security.”

“Let’s imagine that Ukraine is a NATO member, it is fully packed of weapons, it gets advanced attack means like those in Poland and Romania and it starts an operation in Crimea,” Putin said, referencing Crimea, a part of Ukraine that was forcefully claimed by Russia in 2014, on the insistence that it was a ‘sovereign Russian territory.’

“Let’s imagine that Ukraine is a NATO member state and it initiates a military operation. What should we do then, [should we] fight against the NATO bloc? Did anyone think at least something about that? Apparently not.”

Whatever the politics involved, this conflict would be a major one and it would involve many of the world’s biggest military powers. The toll would be great for all sides and, from a human point of view, tragedies would abound. This potential flashpoint to war was certainly enough to move Wladimir Klitschko to action.

“I believe that sometimes the West shows weakness in certain situations,” Klitschko said. “We need to be more united and protect each other and protect our interests, protect our democracy that we’ve been fighting for and developing in the Western world.”

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Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com