PARIS: World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has lashed out at Russian president Vladimir Putin, saying that his actions in eastern Ukraine could set off a third World War.
The 38-year-old Ukrainian made the remarks in a recent interview with L’Equipe sports daily, published on Tuesday, as he prepared for a title defence against American Bryant Jennings on April 25 at Madison Square Garden, New York.
Asked what he would say to Putin if he came face to face with him, Klitschko replied: “That he is making the same mistakes that have been made in the past.
“This war (in eastern Ukraine) makes no sense, we are like brothers (Ukraine and Russia).
“In two, five or 20 years Russia will apologise for the aggression and annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
“After what happened during the second World War, you just cannot go ahead and flout international laws.
What is happening at the moment could set off a third World War.”
The annexation of Crimea was a critical event in the Ukrainian crisis which many believed triggered the separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine where over 6,000 people have since been killed in fighting, according to UN figures.
The Kremlin has denied accusations it has troops in eastern Ukraine and that it is arming the rebels, despite mounting evidence from journalists and independent military experts of Russian weapons systems and personnel in the war zone.
Klitschko, whose older brother Vitali entered politics after a successful boxing career and is currently mayor of Kiev, also called on western countries to be more forceful in dealing with Russia.
“I think that the European community is sleeping.
Putin is doing what he wants to,” he said.
“In boxing we have a saying ‘be aggressive towards the aggressor’.
He (Putin) will not stop there if we do not show him where the limits are. He will continue to march forward.”
An Olympic champion at Atlanta in 1996, the younger Klitschko is currently the WBA-IBF-WBO heavyweight champion and is unbeaten in 11 years.
In all he has 63 wins against just three defeats.