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DW interview with Wladimir und Vitali Klitschko
Image: DW

Klitschko brothers on Zelenskiy: Wait and see

Zhanna Nemtsova
April 24, 2019

Former boxing champions Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko believe Ukraine's new president must lay out his vision for the country. They told DW that Volodymyr Zelenskiy must not forget the ideals of the Maidan revolution.


Zhanna Nemtsova: Wladimir, who did you vote for in the runoff vote, Volodymyr Zelenskiy or Petro Poroshenko?

Wladimir Klitschko: I'd rather keep that to myself, it's private.

You are a private citizen, so that's your right — but Vitali, you are mayor of Kyiv, so you can't keep it to yourself. Who did you vote for?

Vitali Klitschko: No matter who is president of Ukraine, what matters to me, to Wladimir and millions of Ukrainians, is in which direction Ukraine ends up moving. Will it deviate from the path of European integration, democratic change and reforms that the country decided to pursue? It is much more important for every single Ukrainian that there is absolutely no swerving from the path chosen in 2013. Let's not forget that many Ukrainians paid with their lives for this decision over Ukraine's future during the Maidan protests and while defending the country in eastern Ukraine.

Who did you vote for?

Vitali Klitschko: I make no secret of the fact that I voted for [Petro] Poroshenko. I understand him better, I know what to expect. Poroshenko is a very effective president, including on budgetary policy. He also managed to set up an international coalition to support Ukraine. All of the above allowed Ukraine to retain its independence, more or less. Zelenskiy did not even present a program. We are not supposed to be choosing a person, but a policy for the future. Every Ukrainian wants to know first and foremost what he can expect from the future. Everyone wants a European standard of living.

How do you feel about a man becoming president who has no political experience?

Wladimir Klitschko: There are similarities — in US history, for example, there was Ronald Reagan, a former actor.

Vitali Klitschko: I would like to add that he was governor of California before he was elected US president.

Read more: How Volodymyr Zelenskiy beat Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine

Wladimir Klitschko: Right. Arnold Schwarzenegger also used to be an athlete, like you — a former boxer-turned-mayor. So what about Zelenskiy? Our president is a former entertainer. I'd say we will soon see how things go. And five years down the road, we will see what was promised and whether these promises were kept.

One key issue cropped up time and again during the election campaign: Zelenskiy's opponents accused him of being financed by Ihor Kolomoyskyi, a well-known Ukrainian oligarch who currently lives in Israel. Is that true?

Vitali Klitschko: I can neither deny nor confirm it. Everybody's talking about it and there is indirect evidence. The 1+1 TV channel is Zelenskiy's long-time media partner, that's not a secret. Every series created by Zelenskiy's Quartal 95 production company is broadcast on that channel. Zelenskiy was often seen in Kolomoyskyi's company — Zelenskiy was invited to his birthday, which was even shown on TV. All of this is indirect evidence. These are all facts well known to the public.

Wladimir, does the fact that you made public appearances during the election campaign mean that you want to head into the political arena?

Wladimir Klitschko: I actually thought you would ask whether I plan to return to sports. That is a more interesting topic, and I always answer by saying: "Never say never."

Concerning sports, but what about politics?    

Wladimir Klitschko: Never say never.

Vitali, will you support your brother if he enters Ukrainian politics?

Vitali Klitschko: I will back my brother no matter what decision he makes.

Vitali, Ukrainian parliamentary elections are scheduled for this fall, are you going to run?

Vitali Klitschko: I will certainly participate in the parliamentary elections. Ukraine is a republic with a parliament and a president, and much depends on parliament. The UDAR party currently has 30 representatives in parliament. Without them, it would be extremely difficult for me to get many bills on the local self-government and development of the city of Kyiv passed by parliament. I have spoken to many mayors and I know that they need legislative support. We need a parliamentary group to defend the people's interests.

Interview with Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko
The Klitschko brothers spoke with DW's Zhanna NemtsovaImage: DW

Would that be a group set up by your UDAR party?

Vitali Klitschko: Either it would be by UDAR or there will be some form of rebranding. In any case, parliament is one of the most important elements of politics.

Wladimir, are you supporting your brother in his bid to run for parliament?

Wladimir Klitschko: I always support my brother, it's what I have always done for the past 43 years.

Vitali, would you like to see an early vote for the mayor of Kyiv coincide with the national vote? There would, of course, first have to be a change in legislation.

Vitali Klitschko: Elections are associated with a great deal of populism. Just ask the people on the street, they will tell you they are fed up with these elections. Many developments are slowed down in connection with elections, so it would be better if the country were not constantly in election mode. It would be good to make a fresh start in all sections of state power — from parliament to local councils — in order to work as efficiently as possible over the next five years instead of heading from one election to the next.

Read more: Ukraine votes for fresh start with comedian

Vitali Klitschko is a Ukrainian politician and former professional boxer. He founded the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) party. In May 2014 he was elected mayor of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. His younger brother, Wladimir, is also a former boxer and heavyweight world champion.

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