A look at Ukrainian stars who’ve vowed to defend their country against Russia’s invasion

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Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many of the country’s citizens are left to make potentially grave decisions.

While some have taken up shelter in Ukraine, some have fled. Others, including a number of celebrities and lawmakers, have elected to stay put and are fighting to thwart Russia after the Ukrainian government handed out tens of thousands of automatic rifles to civilians last week. 

Outside of volunteers, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has banned men of military age from 18 to 60 from leaving the country.

Here’s a look at a few public figures who have said they will join the fight against Vladimir Putin’s army.

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Wladimir Klitschko and Vitali Klitschko

Wladimir Klitschko, a former Ukrainian boxer and WBO and WBA champion who dominated the sport’s heavyweight division alongside his brother and current Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko in the 2000s, has vowed to defend his home country against Putin.

Wladimir recently accused the Russian president of trying to reinstate Russia’s dominance over vulnerable parts of the world and maintained that attacks against the Eastern European nation are the result of years of “weakness in Western democracies.

“Putin wants to call into question the geopolitical balance across the whole of Europe, he dreams of being the defender of the Slavic peoples wherever they live, and he wants to restore a fallen empire whose demise he has never accepted,” he wrote in a LinkedIn blog post on Feb. 24. 

United with his brother Vitali, the pair have dug their heels in for a fight for their lives and those of their fellow countrymen and women.

Wladimir, 45, has a 7-year-old daughter, Kaya, with his ex-fiancée and actress Hayden Panettiere, who has since confirmed that their daughter is “safe” and is “not in Ukraine” amid the crisis.

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Vasiliy Lomachenko has also joined Ukraine's reserve forces and was seen wearing full military fatigues with a rifle slung across his shoulder. Lomachenko is pictured reacting after his win over Richard Commey during their WBO Intercontinental Lightweight Title fight at Madison Square Garden Dec. 11, 2021, in New York City.

Vasiliy Lomachenko has also joined Ukraine’s reserve forces and was seen wearing full military fatigues with a rifle slung across his shoulder. Lomachenko is pictured reacting after his win over Richard Commey during their WBO Intercontinental Lightweight Title fight at Madison Square Garden Dec. 11, 2021, in New York City.
(Sarah Stier)

Vasiliy Lomachenko

A champion in three separate weight classes and arguably one of the best pound-for-pound punchers in boxing, Vasiliy Lomachenko, 34, is known simply across the sport as “LOMA” and he has also joined Ukraine’s reserve forces. He appeared in a Feb. 27 Instagram post in full military fatigues with a rifle slung across his shoulder.

“The Belgorod-Dnestrovsky Territorial Defense Battalion has been formed and armed,” the post’s caption states. “In the territorial defense, boxer Vasily Lomachenko.”

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Ukranian musician Andriy Khlyvnyuk, right, joins the fight against Russia's invasion.

Ukranian musician Andriy Khlyvnyuk, right, joins the fight against Russia’s invasion.
(Boombox Family/Instagram)

Andriy Khlyvnyuk 

The frontman of local hip-hop and rock band BoomBox appeared in social media images and videos Feb. 28 in full military attire holding a rifle amid the deadly Russian invasion.

“Musicians are peacemakers,” Khlyvnyuk recently told the Euronews website. “Now it’s not time for playing guitars. It’s time to take the rifles.”

“They bombed us,” added the 42-year-old musician who has left his children in the care of his grandmother. At the time he said his plan was to “take [his] kids to a safe house – to granny’s. And then I’ll return to follow the instructions of the government. And if it’s needed I’ll take my gun and go fight for my country.”

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Tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky has enlisted in his country’s military reserves. He is pictured in action during the Nature Valley Open Tennis Tournament at Nottingham Tennis Centre June 13, 2018, in Nottingham, England.

Tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky has enlisted in his country’s military reserves. He is pictured in action during the Nature Valley Open Tennis Tournament at Nottingham Tennis Centre June 13, 2018, in Nottingham, England.
(Alex Dodd – CameraSport)

Sergiy Stakhovsky

The 36-year-old four-time ATP Tour title winner enlisted in his country’s military reserves and said he is more than willing to return fire in the event he comes face-to-face with possible death.

“Of course, I would fight. It’s the only reason I’m trying to get back,” Stakhovsky told Sky News, noting he does not have military experience but has “experience with a gun privately.”

“My dad and brother are surgeons, they are stressed out, but I speak to them frequently — they sleep in the basement,” he added, according to Reuters.

On Wednesday, Stakhovsky took to Instagram to share a photo of himself in full military uniform, packing a rifle and sidearm as he patrolled the streets of Kyiv. 

“Never in my life I would expect that I will have to wear bulletproof vest in #Kyiv,” he lamented. “It’s a disaster the way RUSSIA invaded Ukraine.”

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His Tuesday post showed him sitting in a stairwell with his head down and his hands on his head.

“Experiencing all this violence which is forced on us by russian troops and putins regime… seeing tears in the eyes of bypassing people who feel uncertain about their future… leads me only to one conclusion…we have to prevail…” he wrote, adding, “WE MUST NOT SURRENDER.”

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In a previous social media post, on Feb. 24, Stakhovsky said he was proud of his country and its armed forces.

“I am proud of @ukraine_defence I am proud of @national_guard_of_ukraine I am proud of my president @zelenskiy_official I am proud of every Ukrainian. I am proud to be Ukrainian. Believe in our military … believe in our invincibility. Glory to Ukraine,” he wrote in the post, according to an English translation. 

Fox News’ Mike Ruiz and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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