Ukraine boxer and MP Vitali Klitschko eyes presidency

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Vitali Klitschko: 'Ukrainian politics doesn't have rules'

The world heavyweight boxing champion and Ukrainian opposition leader Vitali Klitschko has dropped a strong hint that he will stand for his country's presidency in 2015.

The 42-year-old has campaigned against President Viktor Yanukovych and what he calls authoritarianism in Ukraine.

"I think about the possibility to take part in the presidential election," Klitschko - nickname Dr Ironfist - told the BBC.

He is an MP in a pro-Western party.

The party is called Udar, which translates as "Punch", but actually stands for Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms.

He said the final decision about his possible candidacy would be made in a few months' time, "after a discussion with civil society in Ukraine".

"My main goal is for Ukraine to be a European, modern country with European standards of life. I will decide with people who have the same vision, the same dream, to go into politics and from the inside to change the situation," he said.

Could that be a campaign speech for a would-be president? "No fight, no win," he replied with a smile.

It is easy to see why his political opponents might be worried.

Two metres tall (6ft 7in), he is a national celebrity who towers over almost everyone he meets, but still everyone wants to meet him.

Image source, AP
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Klitschko beat Britain's Dereck Chisora in February 2012 but it was a punishing duel

Klitschko has had a long-standing interest in politics, previously running for mayor of Kiev.

He has spoken out against corruption in the country and the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko. The former Ukrainian prime minister was imprisoned for "abuse of office" - a charge that her supporters claim was politically motivated.

"We can't be a democratic country with political prisoners," he says.

Klitschko is also pushing to strengthen Ukraine's links with the EU.

"We see our future in the European family. We are European with our mentality, with our history," he says.

Tensions with Russia

Ukraine is hoping to sign off on a political association and free trade pact with the EU in Vilnius in November.

But Russian officials have warned against it.

Already this month Russia was accused of temporarily imposing extra customs checks on Ukrainian imports.

"Russia wants to prevent the signing of an agreement between Ukraine and the EU," states Klitschko.

He insists that Russian threats of economic sanctions are a breach of World Trade Organization rules.

"We have to build a good friendly relationship with all our neighbours."

And what of his boxing career?

Despite the ambitious move into politics, he insists it is not an end to his days in the ring.

"Sport stays in my heart," he says.

Currently recovering from a hand injury, Klitschko knows he'll need to be fully fit to take on his political opponents.

"Ukrainian politics doesn't have rules," he muses: "it's not like boxing".