Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said Friday he was ready to give his life in the city’s defense.
Klitschko made the comment in an interview with Yahoo News, in which he also discussed the emotional toll of the Russian invasion and asked the world to continue its support of Ukraine.
“If my home country needs my life, I am ready to give my life — for my country, for my children, for the future,” the former heavyweight boxing champion said.
“Nobody wants to die, everybody wants to live, but the Russians want to rebuild a Russian empire and we don’t want to live in a Russian empire,” Klitschko said. “The Russians try to put us on our knees, but we’re fighting right now for freedom and for the future of our children and our country.”
Kyiv has been under Russian bombardment since the early days of the Russian invasion, now entering its fourth week.
Kyiv was hit by an early morning barrage on Friday that struck six houses and two schools were hit in the Podil neighborhood. At least one person was reported dead.
Klitschko said that 220 residents had been killed in the bombardment of the capital so far, including six children. About half of the Kyiv metro area’s 3.5 million residents have evacuated so far.
“We Ukrainians were always a friendly nation, always a peaceful country,” Klitschko said. “But right now we don’t have another choice. We have to fight.”
Klitschko, 50, said he’d been moved by the stories he residents have told him about losing loved ones or having their homes destroyed.
“I’m an old man, a tough man, but it’s difficult to listen to that, to take the human emotions.”
“Women losing children — it’s difficult to see,” Klitschko said.
Klitschko said he was inspired to stay and fight by his father, a Soviet Air Force officer who died after being exposed to radiation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster.
“He taught me always it was a big privilege to die by defending your country,” Klitschko said.