Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk has enlisted with the Kyiv Territorial Defence in a heroic bid to protect his homeland after Russia launched its devastating invasion, with the heavyweight even pictured toting a large machine gun.
Both Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have also joined the military to face up to the Russian forces, with the latter having served as the major of the country’s capital Kyiv since 2014 and made an appeal for other nations to help stop the bloodshed.
They have now been joined by Usyk who, before heading back to Ukraine, was negotiating with Anthony Joshua after stripping away his titles last year. That rematch may even be placed on hold due to the crisis in eastern Europe.
This morning, a Twitter account created to provide updates on the conflict, shared a picture showing Usyk alongside three other soldiers. The boxer was even dressed up in full military gear and was clutching a large gun while looking into the camera.
‘Oleksandr Usyk also enrolled in the SAR,’ the post said.
It is a sudden change in circumstances for Usyk, who was in Sheffield last week to promote an upcoming boxing game. Vladimir Putin then launched his assault, and Usyk quickly faced accusations he had travelled to the UK to avoid the fighting.
He was quick to refute this, however, after sharing an update on Instagram.
‘Dear Ukraine and dear Ukrainians, some wrote about me running away. Not true, I had a work trip and now I’m back. I’m home,’ he said. ‘Friends, we need to unite together and overcome this, because we are faced with exceptional difficulties.
Oleksandr Usyk has enlisted with the Kyiv Territorial Defence after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
‘I’m very overcome with emotions and I’m very concerned for my country and for our people. Friends we must stop this war and we must do it together.’
In a separate video, Usyk, 35, has appealed directly to the Russian people to help bring an end to the violence – making reference to his religion.
He said: ‘Good morning to everybody. My name is Oleksandr Usyk. I’d like to speak to the people of Russia.
‘If we consider ourselves as brothers, Orthodox ones, do not send your children to our country, do not fight with us.
Heavyweight titan Usyk was in the UK at the start of the violence but returned to his homeland
‘Also I’m addressing this to the President, Vladimir Putin. You can stop this war.
‘Please just sit down and negotiate it with us without claims.
‘Our kids, wives, grannies are hiding in the basements. We are here in our own country, we cannot do it any other way.
‘We are defending. Stop this war, stop it. No War.’
Vasyl Lomachenko (left) also enlisted in the Ukrainian territorial army to fight against Russia
Vasyl Lomachenko, another Ukrainian boxer, has also taken to the frontlines.
Elsewhere, Sheriff Tiraspol manager Yuriy Vernydub has returned to his home country to also signed up for the territorial army.
Born in Zhytomyr, a northern city in Ukraine, Vernydub has made the decision to help the military. He was pictured in camouflaged attire with two army colleagues.
Former Arsenal defender Oleh Luzhnyi has also revealed he plans to put his coaching aspirations in the UK on hold to fight for Ukraine.
Yuriy Vernydub (centre), who manages Sheriff Tiraspol, has returned to his native country
Five months ago, Vernydub (left) celebrated a famous Champions League win over Real Madrid
Anastasia Lenna, Ukraine’s 2015 representative in the Miss Grand International beauty contest, posted a picture of herself dressed up in full combat gear.
‘Everyone who crosses the Ukrainian border with the intent to invade will be killed!’ she said in a recent Instagram story.
Today, talks between Kyiv and Moscow have started at a location on the border of Belarus, after the invasion entered its fifth day.
Ukraine’s health ministry said on Sunday that 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since Russia’s invasion of the country last week.
Ukraine war: The latest
- Ukraine’s MoD says Russia has lost 5,300 soldiers, 29 planes, 29 helicopters and 151 tanks
- Russia’s MoD has for the first time acknowledged suffering losses, but refused to say how many
- Russian economy entered freefall as Western sanctions put in place over the weekend took effect, with ruble sliding to its lowest level ever
- Moscow’s central bank has more-than doubled the interest rate to 20 per cent
- Russia orders people and companies to sell 80 per cent of their revenue in foreign currencies, forcing them to buy the ruble to help prop it up
- Moscow stock exchange won’t open until at least 3pm in an attempt to head off all-out crash
- Zelensky has allowed Ukrainian prisoners to be freed if they join defence forces to ‘repay their debt’
- President says that 16 Ukrainian children have been killed and 45 wounded in the four days since the invasion began