Vitali Wants To Be Kiev's Mayor

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who backed president Viktor Yushchenko during mass Orange Revolution protests, said on Thursday he would run for mayor of Ukraine's capital Kiev.

Vitali Klitschko

Klitschko announced his retirement last November after a leg injury prevented him from defending his WBC title. He is highly popular among Ukrainians and is seen as a post-Soviet role model for young people.

"I have prepared for this step and am fully aware of the responsibility," Ukrainska Pravda, Ukraine's leading internet publication, quoted him as telling reporters.

"I want to become Kiev mayor because I love my city very much and want to make life better here."

Elections to parliament and local councils take place on March 26.

The vote is seen as the first test of enduring popularity for Yushchenko's administration. His first year in power was plagued by a split among liberals who had joined forces during three weeks of street protests to help propel him to office.

An economic slowdown has fuelled disillusion among backers of the revolution, now split into rival camps accusing each other of corruption.

Klitschko, 34, is already running in the parliamentary election on the ticket of a coalition grouping economic liberals and activists who backed the revolution.

The ex-champion said the mayor's job was more important. He pledged to fight corruption and use his international contacts to boost Kiev's prosperity.

Klitschko will be challenging incumbent Oleksander Omelchenko, 68, who has run Kiev for nearly 10 years. Omelchenko backed Vitaly and his younger bother Vladimir in the early stages of their boxing careers.

Klitschko, who holds a PhD in sports science, made his professional debut in 1996 and won the WBC title in April 2004 by defeating South African Corrie Sanders. He had 35 wins in 37 fights before his retirement.

Source: SuperBoxing