Photo Gallery Europe's Strongman in Ukraine

The fight for Ukraine has now become a contest between the Russian president and the German chancellor. Putin won the first round. But Merkel and her fellow Europeans are grooming professional heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko to be their representative in Kiev.
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Heavyweight boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko is swiftly becoming the face of the Ukrainian opposition abroad. Now European conservatives are grooming him as their representative in Kiev. His job is to unite and lead the opposition -- on the street, in parliament and, finally, in the 2015 presidential election. "Klitschko is our man," say senior EPP politicians. "He has a clear European agenda."

Foto: Alexey Furman/ dpa
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In the middle of last week, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made a show of appearing with Klitschko in front of a crowd of protesters in Kiev. Westerwelle's appearance on Kiev's Independence Square was an awkward moment: The crowd wanted to see Yanukovich overthrown, but that was something Westerwelle, as a Western politician, couldn’t exactly endorse. Instead, he made a general reference to the country's European future, and posed for several photos with Klitschko.

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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's decision to back out of a partnership deal with the EU sparked the most recent protests. A blunt remark by Merkel at an EU-Eastern Europe summit in Vilnius in late November made clear that any friendship with the Ukrainian president is finished.

Foto: Rainer Jensen/ dpa
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"The door remains open for Ukraine," Merkel repeatedly emphasized at the summit in Vilnius, noting that the Europeans were still willing to talk. It sounded like a losing contestant's painstaking effort to save face. But it also suggests that the issue is not a done deal.

Foto: Rainer Jensen/ dpa
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Yanukovich (right) shakes hands with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in July 2012. Putin had met with Yanukovich several times before the summit in Vilnius. What exactly he offered the Ukrainian president is unknown, although there is talk of loans and price discounts for natural gas worth billions.

Foto: AFP / Presidential Press-Service Pool
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Riot police block opposition protesters during a demonstration in Kiev on Nov. 29. The Ukrainian government's decision to back out of the EU partnership has split the country, and sparked the biggest protests in Ukraine since the Orange Revolution in 2004.