By Patrick Grafton-Green
Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko declared “we are ready to fight and defend our families” in an exclusive interview with LBC, as efforts to resolve the crisis on the Ukrainian border continue.
Mr Klitschko told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast with Tom Swarbrick: “We have to be strong and we have to defend our city, we have to defend our families, we have to defend our country, we have to defend our future.”
When asked what message he had for Russian president Vladimir Putin, the former world heavyweight boxing champion said: “This will be a painful price not just for Ukraine, we promise, this will be a painful price for every aggressor who comes to our country.”
He said Mr Putin “has a dream to rebuild the Russian empire” but insisted Ukraine’s “future is a European future, part of the European family”.
It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC Russia is “locked and loaded” and “ready” to invade Ukraine if they choose to, despite claims yesterday some troops were being withdrawn.
Mr Wallace was speaking from the Nato headquarters in Brussels, where he will later meet with fellow Nato defence ministers.
Mr Klitschko said: “We hope the invasion does not happen and in the last minute we find a diplomatic solution.
“We Ukrainians are not aggressive to anyone, we are a peaceful country, peaceful people live here and what happens could be a disaster… a disaster for the whole region, for the whole of Europe, for the whole world.”
He added: “I appreciate the position from Boris Johnson, Boris Johnson always supports Ukraine as a European, independent country, a democratic country, and supports our wish to be part of the European family.”
“Mr Putin does not accept our wish”, he continued, accusing him living “in the past”.
He said “unity” is “very important” between “all European countries and Ukraine”.
European countries should not be held “hostage” by Russia due to reliance on gas, he added, and “that’s why not just Ukraine have to calculate their near future also”.
On joining Nato, he said: “It’s our decision… to be part of Nato, it’s our defence, it’s our security, it’s our decision.”
Mr Wallace will join Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and US defence secretary Lloyd Austin as the alliance considers its response to the 130,000 Russian troops massing at Ukraine’s borders.
The meeting comes after Mr Putin said on Tuesday that Russia did not want another war, and was open to further dialogue with the US and its Nato allies.
US president Joe Biden, meanwhile, gave a televised address in which he said an invasion was still possible and stressed the US would defend all Nato territory.
According to reports, US intelligence sources believed an invasion could commence at 3am local time – 1am in the UK – on Wednesday, however this did not eventuate.