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Vitali to take swing at Ukraine presidency

Updated: 2013-10-26 08:05
By Reuters in Kiev ( China Daily)

Ukrainian heavyweight boxer and opposition politician Vitali Klitschko said on Thursday he would run for president in 2015 and angrily rejected legislation that could disqualify his candidacy because of years he spent training in Germany.

Klitschko, 42, the reigning WBC heavyweight champion, made his declaration to parliament after its deputies - predominantly from the ruling Party of Regions and its allies - amended a law on tax legislation in a way that could be used to prevent him from running for the presidency.

He is the first declared contender against incumbent Viktor Yanukovich, who is widely expected to seek a second term despite a slump in popularity because of Ukraine's faltering economy.

 Vitali to take swing at Ukraine presidency

Ukrainian heavyweight boxer and opposition politician Vitali Klitschko addresses parliament in Kiev on Thursday. Klitschko said he will run for president in 2015. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Banging the rostrum with his hand to emphasize his point, the 2-meter tall Klitschko said: "Everything that has taken place in parliament today with texts of laws, directly backed by ruling party deputies, does not intimidate me and will not stop me.

"To head off all this conjecture and attempts to eliminate me as a possible candidate, I want to declare this: I will run for president."

He shapes up as the strongest challenger to Yanukovich in 2015 in the absence of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of office and whose release Western powers are seeking.

Klitschko has condemned widespread corruption in Ukrainian society, which he says is fostered by the leadership and speaks up for a fairer, more democratic society.

But his popularity mainly derives from his gut appeal as a big-hitting sportsman, untainted by domestic politics; his skills as a political manager are untested.

The latest opinion polls, though, put Klitschko's ratings on a level with Yanukovich, whose popularity has suffered because of declining living standards and stagnant economic growth.

Klitschko launched his political career in 2005 by running - unsuccessfully - for mayor of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and setting up a pro-Western liberal party known by its abbreviated name UDAR, which means "punch" in Ukrainian.

UDAR won 42 seats in the 450-seat parliament in last year's election, making it one of the leading opposition parties.

A former amateur kickboxer, Klitschko in the ring is known for his devastating punches and holds one of the highest knockout records in heavyweight boxing history. His punching power and the fact he has a PhD have given him the nickname of 'Dr Ironfist'.

(China Daily 10/26/2013 page15)