Klitschko Back In Ukraine Political Ring After Fight

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's boxing star Vitali Klitschko on Tuesday vowed to win a better future for his country as he sprang back into campaigning for parliamentary polls just three days after defending his world title.

Ukrainian WBC World Heavyweight Champion and head of Ukraine's opposition political party UDAR Vitali Klitschko.

"I'm putting sporting contests behind me for the moment," said the burly two-metre-tall (6'6" tall) World Boxing Council champion, 41, who left his latest opponent, Germany's Manuel Charr, bleeding profusely after his win in Moscow on Saturday.

"Now I have a more serious task, that of taking up the political fight again for the future of my country," he vowed at a press conference in Kiev before going on the campaign trail ahead of parliamentary polls on October 28.

The boxer heads a party called the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform.

The party's acronym UDAR spells "punch" in Ukrainian and although as yet it has no seats in parliament, it is currently scoring third in opinion polls.

Extraordinarily, it will be competing for votes with the pro-business party Ukraine Forward! whose key figure is another sports superstar, former AC Milan and Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko.

Klitschko hopes that his party members will gain 60 to 70 seats out of the single-chamber parliament's total of 450.

Wearing an impeccably cut blue suit, he spoke succinctly but still not entirely fluently in Ukrainian, since his native language is Russian which is spoken widely in Kiev, his native city, as well as in the country's east.

We must "do everything to make the regime that is not in the interests of Ukraine leave," he said, calling the poll "a fight between the authorities and society."

The popular sportsman promised to fight corruption in what he called "one of the most corrupt countries in the world".

"In Ukraine, politics is a business. People go into politics to earn money. We are going into politics to change this shameful practice," said Klitschko, who has declared earnings in 2011 of $4.7 million, all in the United States.

He said he wanted politics to "defend the interests of the citizens, of the state, not of a handful of people who are using it get rich."

He also fought off accusations of hidden ties to the ruling party published in Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper on Monday.

"I have never sold myself and I never will sell myself," he said firmly.

"I have no links to the presidency."

Vitali and his younger brother Vladimir, who is also a boxing champion, both played active parts in the Orange Revolution pro-democracy movement of 2004 that swept to power pro-Western leaders Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko.

He said he backed Ukraine's joining the European Union, a dream that has stalled due to Western opposition to the 2011 jailing of ex-Prime Minister Tymoshenko for abuse of power, widely seen as political revenge by current President Viktor Yanukovych.

"We Ukrainians are Europeans, there is no doubt about that," said Klitschko, criticising the freeze.

"But we are unfortunately very far from European standards of living. We are going to parliament to speed up the process of European integration."

"Ukraine should be part of the European family," he stressed.

Source: AFP