Vitali Klitschko: Russians are dying for Putin’s ambitions

By Nick Beake
BBC News Europe correspondent

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Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klischko at a memorial service for Roman Ratushny in KyivImage source, Sira Thierij/BBC
Image caption,
Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Russian President Vladimir Putin was destroying millions of lives in Ukraine and Russia

The Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, has told the BBC the Russian public will eventually realise their young soldiers are dying for nothing more than Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions.

The former world heavyweight boxing champion was attending the funeral of a well-known 24-year-old anti-corruption activist when the remarks were made.

Volunteer soldier Roman Ratushny was killed in Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, on 9 June.

Mayor Klitschko, who won legions of fans across the world during his long record-breaking career, said the Russian leader was destroying millions of lives in both Ukraine and his own country.

"This is also a tragedy for Russians and for the Russian Federation. The people do not understand that right now, but I am sure they will realise very soon the reality. The Russians die - for what? The ambition of Putin?"

The mayor was among hundreds of mourners who turned out to pay their respects to Mr Ratushny - who came to prominence during pro-democracy protests in 2013 against the pro-Moscow former Ukrainian government.

Image source, Sira Thierij/BBC
Image caption,
Mourners pay their respects and leave flowers on the coffin of Roman Ratushny in Independence Square
Image source, Alexey Furman
Image caption,
Mayor Klischko lays flowers on Roman Ratushny's coffin

His coffin was carried into Independence Square, where friends gave tributes and dozens of mourners stepped forward to leave bouquets of flowers.

At regular intervals, the crowd shouted "Slava Ukraini" - Glory to Ukraine.

Vitali Klitschko said Western allies showing solidarity with Ukraine was "key for peace and freedom in Europe."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned from an unannounced trip to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, has warned that "Ukraine fatigue" was beginning to set in around the world.

Mr Johnson said allies needed to demonstrate they were giving Ukraine "strategic resilience".

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The prime minister's visit came just a day after the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania all arrived in Ukraine to give their support to the country's ambitions to join the EU.

Some Ukrainian officials have expressed concerns that Western allies may push their country towards a peace deal with Russia in light of the ongoing fallout from the war on food and energy supplies and the global economy.

When I asked Mayor Klitschko if he was concerned Ukraine could be pressured to make concessions to the Russians, he said ceding Ukrainian land should not happen.

"I'm more than sure we will be ready to talk with the Russians about some compromise. If the last Russian soldier left Ukraine, it will be time to talk but not yet. Russians have to go from our homeland."

As one of the most recognisable Ukrainians in the world, Mayor Klitschko's voice carries weight. But the ultimate decision on if and when to enter peace talks will be down to President Zelensky and his government.