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19 May, 2024 18:12

Boxing sensation Usyk still on Ukrainian state-linked ‘kill list’

The Crimea-born fighter became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world after defeating the UK’s Tyson Fury early on Sunday
Boxing sensation Usyk still on Ukrainian state-linked ‘kill list’

Ukrainian boxer Aleksandr Usyk, who became the world’s first undisputed heavyweight boxing champion in 24 years on Sunday, is listed on a notorious online database of people accused of “committing crimes against the Ukrainian state.” 

Usyk clawed his way to victory in a twelve-round bout against the UK’s Tyson Fury in the early hours of Sunday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

While Fury dominated in the first half of the encounter, Usyk managed to turn the tide in the eighth round, winning by split decision. The Crimean-born fighter became the first boxer to hold all four major heavyweight belts simultaneously, as well as the first undisputed champ since 2000.

However, at home, the 37-year-old has repeatedly been criticized for supposedly not being patriotic enough, and has found himself on the notorious Mirotvorets (Peacekeeper) website. 

Before hostilities erupted, Usyk had on multiple occasions provoked the ire of Ukrainian nationalists by stating that he didn’t see the difference between Russians and Ukrainians.

When asked whether he considered Crimea to be Ukrainian or Russian, the fighter would merely say that the peninsula belongs to God, or simply that “Crimea is Crimea.”

The controversial website was launched by Ukrainian government-linked activists in 2014 – months after the Maidan coup and Crimea’s accession to Russia, and at the height of Kiev’s armed conflict with Donbass secessionists.

The site publishes the personal details, such as home addresses and phone numbers, of people accused of posing a threat to Ukraine’s security. Over the years, the website has been criticized by a number of human rights organizations and was dubbed a ‘kill list’ after several people listed on the website were assassinated.

Usyk’s name appeared in the database back in 2020, with the website’s administrators accusing him of “repeating the Kremlin’s narratives… rejecting Russian aggression and denying the independence of Ukrainian Orthodoxy from Russian control.” Mirotvorets cites the boxer’s appearance in a religious film linked to the Russian Orthodox Church, titled ‘Hello, Brother! Christ is Risen!’

According to the website, some of the comments Usyk made in the video regarding relations between Russians and Ukrainians are controversial.

Soon after the outbreak of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in February 2022, the boxer returned from abroad and joined a Territorial Defense Battalion. However, the athlete moved to Poland in March of the same year to train for an upcoming fight, explaining that he could better serve the country in the ring than on the battlefield.