The Klitschko brothers, heavyweight boxing champions turned defenders of Ukraine, have warned European leaders they must unite in total opposition to Russia or face the destabilisation of the continent.
Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, and his younger brother Wladimir, who runs their charitable foundation, have met political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
They told Sky News that a united effort to cut Russian oil and gas supplies, to apply tighter sanctions to Moscow’s banks and businesses and a complete sporting boycott was necessary to liberate Ukraine.
Vitali Klitschko said: “I have a message for every politician right now in Europe, here in Davos, and to everyone in Europe and around the world. If somebody’s seeing the war as somewhere far away, they see the war doesn’t touch me personally, they are making the biggest mistake.
“This war can destabilise the situation in the whole region. This war can damage everyone in Europe. That’s why right now we need the unity of all countries. It is the key for peace.
“It’s very important to be united, it’s very important to stop the war, to be united, to make a pledge to stop Russia, to make sanctions, it is very important for Ukraine to be a free, democratic country that is independent with territorial integrity.”
Wladimir Klitschko said the developing world faced food shortages as a consequence of Russian action, adding his voice to calls for a humanitarian corridor to be opened in the Black Sea to allow grain exports.
“The consequences of this war are very scary,” he said. “Ukraine is one of the biggest deliverers of grain to Africa and Asia and with the blocking of the Black Sea we will have hunger in those regions. It is not just those regions, or Ukraine, it’s not just a war that is localised, it is going to spread further.”
He also called for a full sporting boycott of Russia from global events urging the International Olympic Committee to expel them from the next Olympics.
“Here in Switzerland, the IOC Lausanne, the decision must be made to isolate Russia from the next upcoming Olympics, to show Russia these war crimes must be stopped. It can never happen again, but most importantly it must be stopped, because every day that it continues more people die.”
The Klitschkos have spent three days at the World Economic Forum seeking political and business support for the war effort, lending their profile and political status to a big Ukrainian diplomatic delegation here.
Vitali Klitschko said Kyiv was returning to something close to normality, with cafes reopening and some working life returning despite the constant threat of Russian missiles.
The Russian bombardment of cities in the Donbas region continues, however, and the brothers reacted to footage shot by Sky News Correspondent Alex Crawford and her team in Severodonetsk.
“The war has a horrible face,” said Wladimir. “We’ve seen all those dead bodies of young women and older men being killed, you could tell they were tortured and executed with headshots, with their hands tied behind their back.
“And this war was started by Russia. Russia is trying to justify why this war was started, so isolation of Russia by the world is extremely important.”
Asked if Ukraine would win the greatest battle he and his brother have faced, Vitali said: “What other choice do we have? Give up? It’s not an option.
“We are fighting for our future, for our families, for our country. And we are more than certain. We will stop this war and Ukraine will be free from aggressors, and Ukraine will be part of the European democratic family.”