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Interview: Vitali Klitschko -- Ukrainian Politics Has Become A 'No-Rules Fight'

World heavyweight boxing champion and Ukrainian opposition politician Vitali Klitschko
World heavyweight boxing champion and Ukrainian opposition politician Vitali Klitschko
World heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, the leader of the opposition Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms, met on June 21 with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Shortly after that meeting Klitschko sat down with Inna Kuznetzova of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and discussed his own political future, the case of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and the state of Ukrainian politics.

RFE/RL: What issues did you and other opposition figures discuss with Guido Westerwelle?

Vitali Klitschko: We talked about the opposition's activities. We also discussed Mr. Westerwelle's request -- a very important request -- that we unite our efforts and work jointly, not only in the parliament, but also to have a united candidate in the 2015 presidential election.

RFE/RL: Westerwelle said on [June 21] that former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko did not have a fair trial. He also offered to arrange for her transport to Germany so she can receive adequate medical treatment. How would it be possible for Tymoshenko to travel to Germany without actually being freed?

Klitschko: The Germans can take Mrs. Tymoshenko in for treatment. But this, unfortunately, depends not on the Germans. It depends on one person whose last name is known to everybody – this is Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych.

RFE/RL: In April you called for early parliamentary and presidential elections? Do you intend to run for president?

Klitschko: I will answer that question a little later. Today, I am not ready to give you a clear answer. I fight every day in the parliament. Ukrainian politics is really a fight, because every day you meet with people that you have to convince, that do not want to listen to you, who conduct different schemes to deceive. And Ukrainian politics, unfortunately, resembles not a sport, which operates with rules, but a "no-rules fight." It is hard, but we all want to have not only politics, but life with rules.

RFE/RL: I'd like to ask you a question from one of our listeners, which was posted on the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service's Facebook page. Why don't you want to unite with Tymoshenko's party and other opposition parties to form one fist that would pack a strong punch? (Eds: the acronym of Klitschko's party is Udar, which in Ukrainian means "punch.")

We are sure that we should unite and we do unite our efforts in the parliament. But outside parliament we are different parties. We have different platforms. We have different voters. One-plus-one does not always equal two. There were proposals before elections to the Verkhovna Rada (eds: the Ukrainian parliament) and we clearly decided to function separately.

WATCH: Vitali Klitschko talks to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
Interview: Ukrainian Opposition Leader Vitali Klitschko
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RFE/RL: There have been allegations that Udar is not a true opposition party and that you are the protege of the presidential chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkin. Can you comment on this?

Klitschko: I can say that there are no rules here in Ukraine. There is mudslinging and during parliamentary elections there was mud coming from all sides. They said our party is a technical project. They said that if we got into the Verkhovna Rada we would work 100 percent with [Yanukovych's ruling] Party of Regions. They said ours is a party of traitors. I can say that we are real and we are not playing games. We work in the opposition and there are no traitors among us. We are a unified faction. We do not need [government] positions and we do not need money. We entered politics to fight because we want to live in a normal European country.

RFE/RL: An increasing number of Ukrainian media outlets appear to be coming under the control of people close to President Yanukovych. Since February, Lyovochkin has been a co-owner of Inter, Ukraine's leading television channel. Now Serhiy Kurchenko, a young rising business star in Ukraine with reputed ties to one of Yanukovych's sons, has just bought Ukrainian publishing group UMH.

Klitschko: As they say, Ukraine is a country of unlimited possibilities -- where a 27-year-old man is a billionaire. Maybe [Kurchenko] is very smart. Maybe he will become a Nobel laureate. But I believe, and there are rumors to this effect, that he is a so-called front for others. They are known to all, but they do not want to go public.

RFE/RL: Can you name them?

Klitschko: I have no facts and I do not want to comment on rumors. But this is very strange, when such a young person achieves this. He is [also] involved in soccer (eds: Kurchenko owns the FC Metalist Kharkiv soccer club) and oil.

RFE/RL: What would you like to change about Ukraine?

Klitschko: Recently I heard some very unpleasant things. Ukrainians rank no. 1 in Europe among people who would like to leave their country. Ukraine ranks second in the world in per capita mortality rate. And we are in third place as vodka consumers. This data is not very good. We want to live in a normal country. We want to look forward to the future. We want to live in a European country by European rules and standards.

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