Amidst the escalating violence in the Ukraine, former world champion boxer Vitaly Klitschko is attempting to knock out President Viktor Yanukovych. Opposition groups met again this weekend with the Ukrainian president in an effort to resolve the longstanding political crisis in the former Soviet state. They are upset with Yanukovych for rejecting a proposed economic treaty with the European Union (EU) and instead pursuing a renewed relationship with Russia. The protests began in November of 2013, but the talks that began earlier this week were the first meaningful negotiations between the Ukrainian government and opposition groups since then.
There was cautious optimism after the first meetings concluded this past Thursday. While no progress was made, the two sides agreed to continue talking, leading to this weekend’s negotiations. In this round of talks, President Yanukovych offered several posts within the government to opposition leaders, most notably the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister. The deputy PM position was offered to Vitaly Klitschko, the former boxing champion that has turned his eye to the political arena.
Mr. Klitschko has been involved in Ukrainian politics for several years now. He is a sitting member of Ukraine’s parliament and the leader of one of the opposition political parties. He has also been involved in the current crisis since it began last November. He can commonly be found in Kiev’s Independence Square, a location that has become a focal point for protestors. And he has announced his intention to run for president of the Ukraine in the next election. When that time comes, Vitaly Klitschko will need more than his skills as a boxer to knock out President Yanukovych.
Yanukovych had hoped that the concessions he made today might end the protests and the violence. Klitschko and the other opposition leaders rejected his proposal however. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, another opposition chieftain, called Yanukovych’s offer another attempt to subvert the will of the people by trying to select the leaders of the country himself.
Klitschko and Yatsenyuk then responded with their own list of demands in order to end the protests. Klitschko demanded that presidential elections be held in the Ukraine before the end of 2014. Ukrainian law does not require an election until the early part of 2015. Yatsenyuk enumerated further demands which included re-opening the proposed EU treaty that Yanukovych rejected in 2013, as well as the release of imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Of course above all these is the demand that Yanukovych himself resign as president immediately.
With the opposition rejecting the power-sharing arrangement offered by Yanukovych, and the president unlikely to resign, the situation is at a stalemate. In the meantime, the violence that began this past week continues to escalate. There are more casualties, more arrests, and more direct confrontations between protestors and government forces.
It is this unpredictable situation that Vitaly Klitschko finds himself at the center of. Unlike his days in the boxing ring, political adversaries do not always abide by rules and there is no referee to govern the combatants. The former boxing champion has made his intentions clear though. Vitaly Klitschko will be trying to knock out President Yanukovych.
By Christopher V. Spencer