Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko and brother Wladimir ready to fight in the streets

Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko and brother Wladimir ready to fight in the streets
Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko, right, and his brother Wladimir, both former world heavyweight boxing champions, in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo)
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Updated 01 March 2022

Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko and brother Wladimir ready to fight in the streets

Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko and brother Wladimir ready to fight in the streets
  • Vitali Klitschko has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014, two years after he finally called it quits on a boxing career that earned him an Olympic gold medal and a world title
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted, along with a picture of the brothers: ‘I am thinking of you, my friends — you were my heroes in the ring and you’re my heroes now’

The two big men standing shoulder to shoulder in a photo taken Sunday in the mayor’s office in beleaguered Kyiv, Ukraine, were instantly recognizable to most boxing fans. Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, the sons of a Soviet major general, are both former heavyweight champions and whenever one was in the ring, the other was always helping from the corner.
Now they’re in a fight unlike any they ever imagined. The prize for this one isn’t a gaudy championship belt but the survival of their country.
Vitali Klitschko is helping lead it as mayor of Kyiv. His younger brother plays the role of chief second.
They’re a formidable pair, ready to do whatever it takes to defend their country against invading Russians. So far that hasn’t included armed combat, but both have made it clear they will fight in the streets if it comes to that.
And, in a rich Ukrainian boxing community, they’re not alone.
Vasiliy Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who some consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, hastily flew home from Greece to don combat fatigues as a member of a defense battalion. He was pictured on his official Facebook page over the weekend with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder near Odessa.
“The Belgorod-Dnestrovsky Territorial Defense Battalion has been formed and armed,” the caption read. “In the territorial defense, boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko informed the mayor.”
The current heavyweight champion is also in on the fight. Oleksandr Usyk returned home from London when Russia invaded his country and, instead of preparing for a possible rematch against Anthony Joshua this spring, he is getting ready to fight against Russians in his native land.
Both are potentially losing million dollar paydays — in Usyk’s case, the biggest purse of his career in a rematch with Joshua. But defending a belt and defending a country are two very different things.
On Sunday, Usyk posed not with gloves but an automatic rifle, flanked by three other armed men in the Kyiv Territorial Defense force.
They’re all great fighters with proud legacies in the ring. When Wladimir Klitschko last fought in 2017, he and Joshua engaged in a thrilling knockdown bout before 90,000 at Wembley Stadium in London. Klitschko came off the canvas that night to deck the British champion before ultimately being stopped by the younger fighter.
And people in boxing still talk about Vitali Klitschko nearly getting the upper hand on Lennox Lewis in their heavyweight clash in Los Angeles in 2003 that ended only because the ring doctor stopped it when there was so much blood flowing down Klitschko’s face he couldn’t see.
None of the Ukrainian prizefighters ever backed down with gloves on. And they show no sign of backing down now, even with so much stacked up against them.
“Go back home,” Vitali said when asked what he would tell Russian soldiers. “You have nothing to find here.”
Usyk was even more blunt with his message.
“You are not at war with our government, our army,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “You are at war with the people. This is our land. We are at home.”
Vitali Klitschko has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014, two years after he finally called it quits on a boxing career that earned him an Olympic gold medal and a world title. His brother was arguably even more successful, holding pieces of the heavyweight title while going 11 years without a defeat.
They grew up fighting in the Soviet amateur system and, while their technical styles didn’t endear them to boxing fans everywhere, they were extremely popular in Germany where they sold out arenas and stadiums for big fights.
They’re also very smart. Both have advanced college degrees and speak four languages.
And both have friends in high places.
“I am thinking of you, my friends,” actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted, along with a picture of the brothers. “You were my heroes in the ring and you’re my heroes now.”
On the Boxrec.com website that is the closest thing boxing has to a record book, the home page on Monday featured a picture of Vitali Klitschko holding an automatic rifle above the ratings.
“#1 — Vitali Klitschko,” the caption read.
Sadly, this is war, not sport. There is no referee, very few rules and extremely deadly weapons.
Still, with Russian troops threatening the city on Sunday, the brothers tried to stay upbeat inside the mayor’s office even as Vitali Klitschko warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as the city’s food and medicine supplies dry up.
“Right now, the most important question is to defend our country,” said the former heavyweight champion.


Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US
Updated 57 min 19 sec ago

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US
  • Estonia, which neighbors Russia, has increased defense spending since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine
  • The HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine are widely seen as one of the most effective tools in its arsenal

Tallinn, Estonia: Estonia has agreed to buy six HIMARS rocket systems from the United States worth over $200 million, the state defense investment agency said on Saturday.
It is the largest arms purchase in the country’s history.
Estonia, which neighbors Russia, has increased defense spending since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, as has its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania.
The HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine are widely seen as one of the most effective tools in its arsenal, as the pro-Western country fights back against Russian troops.
Magnus-Valdemar Saar, director general of the Estonian Center for Defense Investments (ECDI), signed a contract on Friday with the United States’ Defense Security Cooperation Agency to boost the country’s indirect fire capability, the ECDI said in a statement.
Estonia will also “procure ammunition, communications solutions, as well as training, logistics, and life-cycle solutions,” said armament category manager Ramil Lipp.
The ECDI did not provide details on how many rockets were ordered but said the purchase included those which can strike targets at a distance of 300 kilometers (186 miles), and rockets of shorter range.
The first deliveries will arrive in 2024.
Lithuania last month said it would buy eight HIMARS rocket systems from the United States for $495 million.


UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan
Updated 03 December 2022

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan
  • New 2-tier system being considered to reduce country’s 150,000-person backlog
  • Syrian, Afghan applications have 98% success rate in UK: Home Office

LONDON: The UK is to establish a two-tier asylum system to speed up claims from people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, in plans set to be announced next week.

The country faces a significant backlog of 150,000 applications driven in part by mass migration of people from places such as Albania, which is considered a safe country. 

A huge number of people have taken to crossing the English Channel illegally in small boats to reach the UK, which has placed enormous burden on the state’s ability to house and support asylum-seekers.

The UK Home Office says by the end of the year it expects at least 50,000 people to have arrived in the country to claim asylum. 

Its figures also show that around 98 percent of applications from people fleeing Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea, 87 percent from people from Sudan and 82 percent of Iranians — who make up around a third of the backlogged asylum claims in total — end up being approved.

Under the proposals, those from the likes of Afghanistan and Syria will now be prioritized and their processes streamlined, removing things such as follow-up interviews after initial approval, and security and identity checks. 

It is thought that this will allow more deserving refugees to start their lives in the UK, as it will allow them to find work and their own accommodation.

Applications from Albanians, meanwhile, will also be dealt with quicker, with a deal to be struck between London and Tirana to expedite the process of deporting those whose applications are denied.

One source told The Times that the new scheme is being overseen directly by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has “completely taken control of the policy” from Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who had previously gone on record to say speeding up application processes based on nationality “wouldn’t be the right way to go.”

The source said: “He’s got teams of Home Office officials working directly to him, and Suella has been sidelined.”

A Home Office source told The Times that the department is looking at “focusing resources on very high grant rate cases.”


Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth
Updated 03 December 2022

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth
  • Catering course gave Ismet Shehu chance to serve late monarch during Diamond Jubilee celebrations
  • ‘Can you imagine that? A poor boy from the countryside serving lunch to the queen of England?’

LONDON: An Albanian who traveled to Britain hidden in a truck has told the Daily Mail that he served lunch to the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Ismet Shehu, now 32, made the dangerous journey aged 17 after traveling to Italy and then France, where in Lille he entered the back of a truck heading for Britain.

Shehu entered the construction and hospitality industries after arriving in the UK, working low-wage jobs before signing up to a university course teaching high-end catering in London.

That course, as part of its training program, offered a small group of students — including Shehu — the opportunity to serve lunch to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Now back in Tirana, the Albanian capital, Shehu has used his experience in hospitality to open a range of successful restaurants.

He told the Mail: “Can you imagine that? A poor boy from the countryside serving lunch to the queen of England?

“It was such an honor for me to do that and all just a couple of years after getting into the country hiding in the back of a lorry. It was the most frightening experience of my life.”


Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport
Updated 03 December 2022

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport
  • Slight relaxation of COVID-19 testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs

BEIJING: Local Chinese authorities on Saturday announced a further easing of COVID-19 curbs, with major cities such as Shenzhen and Beijing no longer requiring negative tests to take public transport.
The slight relaxation of COVID-19 testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs, and follows weekend protests across the country by residents frustrated by the rigid enforcement of anti-virus restrictions that are now entering their fourth year, even as the rest of the world has opened up.
The southern technological manufacturing center of Shenzhen said Saturday that commuters no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test result to use public transport or when entering pharmacies, parks and tourist attractions.
Meanwhile, the capital Beijing said Friday that negative test results are also no longer required for public transport from Dec. 5. However, a negative result obtained within the past 48 hours is still required to enter venues like shopping malls, which have gradually reopened with many restaurants and eateries providing takeout services.
The requirement has led to complaints from some Beijing residents that even though the city has shut many testing stations, most public venues still require COVID-19 tests.
The government reported 33,018 domestic infections found in the past 24 hours, including 29,085 with no symptoms.
As the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China remains the only major nation still sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy which aims to isolate every infected person. The policy, which has been in place since the pandemic started, led to snap lockdowns and mass-testing across the country.
China still imposes mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers to the country, even as its infection numbers are low compared to its 1.4 billion population.
The recent demonstrations, the largest and most widely spread in decades, erupted Nov. 25 after a fire in an apartment building in the northwestern city of Urumqi killed at least 10 people.
That set off angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. Authorities denied that, but the deaths became a focus of public frustration.
The country saw several days of protests across various cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, with protesters demanding an easing of COVID-19 curbs. Some demanded Chinese President Xi Jinping step down, an extraordinary show of public dissent in a society over which the ruling Communist Party exercises near total control.
Xi’s government has promised to reduce the cost and disruption of controls but says it will stick with “zero-COVID.” Health experts and economists expect it to stay in place at least until mid-2023 and possibly into 2024 while millions of older people are vaccinated in preparation for lifting controls that keep most visitors out of China.
While the government has conceded some mistakes, blamed mainly on overzealous officials, criticism of government policies can result in punishment. Former NBA star Jeremy Lin, who plays for a Chinese team, was recently fined 10,000 yuan ($1,400) for criticizing conditions in team quarantine facilities, according to local media reports.
On Friday, World Health Organization emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan said that the UN agency was “pleased” to see China loosening some of its coronavirus restrictions, saying “it’s really important that governments listen to their people when the people are in pain.”


Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says
Updated 03 December 2022

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says
  • Capture of the town would have limited operational value
  • But it can potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk

Russia is likely planning to encircle the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut with tactical advances to the north and south, Britain’s defense ministry said on Saturday.
The capture of the town would have limited operational value but it can potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the ministry added in a daily intelligence update.
“There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut’s capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia,” the ministry said in the update posted on Twitter.