We are Fighting for Ukraine

Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Kiev and former boxing champion, pleads for greater German and European support for Ukraine

30/01/2015 | 16:30 - 18:00 | DGAP Berlin | Invitation only

Speech

Category: Ukraine

“As an athlete, I know that you can’t win without a fight. We are fighting for our country,” Vitali Klitschko told a group of 230 guests at the DGAP on January 30. Ukraine needs to intensify its orientation toward Europe. It needs European expertise, technology, good practices, and above all, financial support. So Kiev’s current mayor and head of the pro-European, anti-corruption party Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) is lobbying for more support from the EU and from Germany.

© DGAP/Dirk Enters

Addressing his audience in German, the former heavyweight boxing champion asserted that the best way of responding to Russia’s attempt to slice off Crimea is to make Ukraine an economically successful country. If Ukraine can offer its citizens better quality of life, then fewer will want to turn to Russia. As the mayor of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital city, he wants to set an example for the rest of the country by pushing through essential reforms. The health care system and the police force are to key areas to address. A rigorous fight against corruption is also essential, for Ukraine desperately needs to shake its sorry reputation as the most corrupt country in Europe.

Klitschko, who retired from boxing in 2005 in order to focus on Ukrainian politics, was a leading figure in the Euromaidan protests of 2013–2014. He was elected mayor of Kiev in May 2014.

Following his speech, in a question-and-answer session moderated by Stefan Meister, Klitschko briefly described concrete plans for reform – touching on federalism and energy efficiency, for example – before focusing on Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia. When asked why many Germans seem to be sympathetically inclined toward Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, Klitschko bitterly acknowledged "that Russian propaganda is indeed quite successful – even here in Germany.” This is not helping the cause of reform within Ukraine. But Germany has also been a key partner to the country, and there is no question of turning away from that friendship. In his closing remarks, Klitschko showed optimism: “The path ahead may be difficult, but that is the very reason why we must pursue it.”

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