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Boxer Klitschko vows to 'knock out' Ukraine leader in poll


Ukrainian world boxing champion and popular opposition leader Vitali Klitschko vowed on Thursday to "knock out" incumbent leader Viktor Yanukovych in the next presidential election.

"We will do everything to ensure that in the 2015 presidential election, President Yanukovych is delivered a knockout blow," Klitschko said in a statement.

"And the knockout will complete his political career," he added.

The 42-year-old heavyweight champion last month announced plans to challenge Yanukovych in upcoming presidential polls.

But his soaring political ambitions were dealt an immediate blow by the adoption of a legal amendment barring people who spend much of their time living or working abroad from running for president.

Klitschko boxes and has residency status in Germany.

But he still insists that the authorities have no reason to deny him participation in the polls, accusing Yanukovych of trying to remove his main rivals from politics.

"He has put one of his opponent in prison and the other he wants to remove (from the polls)," Klitschko said in reference to himself and his jailed ally Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and fierce Yanukovych foe.

The European Union is now putting intense pressure on Ukrainian leaders to release Tymoshenko, jailed on disputed abuse of power charges she says were ordered as political revenge by Yanukovych.

Her release would clear the way for Ukraine to sign a vital Association Agreement with the European Union at the end of the month, the first step toward Kiev's membership in the 28-nation bloc.

But Yanukovych is believed to be looking for ways to prevent Tymoshenko from staging a political comeback and taking part in presidential polls in 2015.