The mayor of Kyiv and former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko has said it is “a big privilege for every man to give his life as a defender of his country” as he warned Russian soldiers to “go away”.
Speaking on Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews programme, the Ukrainian politician said that “everyone in Ukraine is in danger right now” and “nobody wants to die”.
“We always were a peaceful nation,” he said.
“Ukraine is a peaceful country, we were never aggressive to anyone.
“But, right now, the situation is about our future, the future of our children – and we have to defend that.”
Mr Klitschko continued: “It is a big privilege for every man to give his life as a defender of his country, and that is why we are not afraid.
‘Nobody wants to die’
“Nobody wants to die, but it is our home, it is our hometown, it is our families, it is our children – we defend our children, we defend the future.
“I am very surprised, the people with very peaceful professions – for example, musicians, actors, doctors – right now they are standing in uniform.
“They never expected to take weapons in their hands but right now they want to defend their city, hometown.”
He added that Ukrainian citizens “don’t want to live in a country with no human rights, with no press freedoms, with no rules” and said the goal of the Putin regime “is to rebuild the Russian Empire and to occupy Ukraine”.
“Russians go away, Russian soldiers have to go away from our home country – and after that we are ready to discuss,” he said.
“Russian soldiers are fighting for the money, Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian citizens are fighting for the future of our children – and you feel the difference between the money and the children.”
‘We defend our children, we defend the future’
Mr Klitschko also thanked the UK for its continued support for his country.
“We are still fighting, we still defend our future,” he said.
“And one more time, if someone, if someone in the UK or someone in Europe thinks the war is a long way away, it doesn’t touch them, it is the wrong opinion.
“It is the biggest war since the Second World War. It can touch everyone in the European continent, everyone in the world.
“That is why, be proactive, it is our wish to stop the war, it is our wish that people have peace in Ukraine.
“Thank you for supporting our country.”
His comments came after the UK government announced it had issued a further 14 sanctions against Russian propagandists, state media outlets and military figures – including a man dubbed “the butcher of Mariupol”.
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UK issues more Russian sanctions
Among those sanctioned is Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, who has been blamed for the bombings of a children’s hospital and a drama theatre where more than 1,000 civilians were sheltering at the time.
Speaking to Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby, Mr Klitschko said pictures of the devastation in Mariupol are “painful to see” and show scenes he thought were “impossible” just “a couple of months ago”.
“They are killing civilians, they kill children, women,” he said.
“They destroyed Mariupol, they destroyed more than 50% of buildings in Kharkiv – totally destroyed – apartment buildings.
“They destroyed half of Chernihiv it is 150km, around 100 miles from Kyiv.”
Also on the revised sanctions list are Russian propagandist Sergey Brilev and Kremlin funded TV-Novosti, which owns the news channel Russia Today.
Meanwhile, President Putin has said, from Friday, countries buying gas from Russia must pay in roubles or their contracts will not be honoured.