Maksym Galinichev: European boxing champ killed fighting for Ukraine

European boxing champion Maksym Galinichev is killed fighting for Ukraine aged 22: tributes flood in for ‘hero’ who returned to front lines twice after being wounded

  • The boxer is understood to have been fighting in Ukraine’s Luhansk region
  • Reports said he was killed on March 10 in the region that has seen heavy battles 

A Ukrainian European boxing champion has been killed fighting for his country against Vladimir Putin’s invading forces.

Maksym Galinichev, 22, is understood to have been serving for Ukraine’s 25th Sycheslav Airborne Brigade in the Luhansk region, where he was killed.

Galinichev won a gold medal for Ukraine at both the 2017 and 2018 European Youth Championships. He also competed at the Summer Youth Olympics in 2018.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, confirmed the death of Galinichev in a post on Twitter.

The official said on March 24 that the boxer had enlisted as a volunteer, and ‘came back to the frontlines twice after being wounded and recovering.’

‘Eternal memory to Hero,’ Gerashchenko wrote, leading the tributes for Galinichev, which flooded in following the news of his death.

Boxer and soldier Maksym Galinichev (pictured), 22, is understood to have been serving Ukraine’s 25th Sycheslav Airborne Brigade in the Luhansk region, where he was killed

Galinichev won a gold medal for Ukraine at both the 2017 and 2018 European Youth Championships. He also competed at the Summer Youth Olympics in 2018

Britain’s Team GB Boxing called the news ‘tragic’ in a post on Twitter.

‘Everyone at GB Boxing is saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Ukraine’s 22-year-old European Youth champion Maksym Galinichev,’ the organisation said. ‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to Maksym’s friends and family at this devastating time.’

Vladyslav Heraskevych, a fellow Olympian, praised Galinichev for ‘laying down his life’ for Ukraine. He added: ‘Glory to hero.’

Heraskevych said Galinichev was killed on March 10. He wrote that in Spring 2022, the fallen boxer had refused to participate in that year’s European Boxing Championship so that he could volunteer for the airborne assault troops.

Luhansk has seen brutal fighting since Russian forces poured across the border in February 24, 2022. It is one of four regions Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed in September, as his forces were being pushed by Ukrainian counteroffensives.

His order to annex Luhansk, along with Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, came despite not having full control of any of the four regions. 

Moscow has been trying to gain a strong foothold in Ukraine’s east ever since, but continues to meet strong resistance from Kyiv’s defending armies – who are believed to be preparing for yet another counteroffensive that could push Russia back again.

Galinichev is the latest of a number of Ukrainian athletes to have lost their lives in battle, fighting for Ukraine against Russia’s illegal invasion, launched last year.

His death will intensify calls for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned from the 2024 Paris Olympics, which Ukraine and its allies are pushing for due to Putin’s on-going invasion of the sovereign country.

This month, Ukraine refused to send its athletes to the International Boxing Association (IBA) Women’s World Championships in India because of the presence of Russian and Belarusian boxers.

In October last year, the International Boxing Association (IBA) – led by Russian official Umar Kremlev – lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing under their own flag.

This was done despite the International Olympic Committee’s recommendations to keep the ban in place, and angered Ukraine – leading to the boycott.

News of Galinichev’s death comes after a United Nations expert advising the International Olympic Committee sparked outrage for suggesting that Russian athletes who have actively served in the military invasion of Ukraine should be allowed to return to international sports – if they did not take part in war crimes.

The UN special rapporteur for cultural rights, Alexandra Xanthaki, said late Sunday only Russian military members implicated in ‘allegations of war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or propaganda for war’ should be denied neutral status to compete in international sports ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Xanthaki angered Ukrainian athletes who took part in an IOC-hosted call to consult them ahead of an Olympic announcement due Tuesday to update guidance for sports bodies 16 months before the opening of the Paris Games.

It is understood that Galinichev (seen left in a video posted online by the Ukrainian Boxing Federation in January 2022) was killed on March 10, and that in Spring 2022, the fallen boxer had refused to participate in that year’s European Boxing Championship so that he could volunteer for the airborne assault troops

Tributes poured in for the 22-year-old fighter (pictured) who, according to reports, had  previously returned to the frontlines twice after being injured

Ukrainian government and sports officials want the IOC to ban all Russians from the 2024 Games and claim most of the country’s recent Olympic medalists were affiliated with the military.

Xanthaki wrote on her official Twitter account Sunday her view that ‘an athlete who has participated in war would be included’ for neutral status to compete in sports without national symbols such as flags and anthems.

The Greek lawyer later clarified it was usual that ‘men all around the world are conscripted to take part in wars’ and have to follow orders, including killing. She also referred to ‘illegal aggressive’ conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Israel and Iraq.

‘We cannot hold all men who participate in illegal wars by their states following orders responsible. Those who perform crimes, we must,’ Xanthaki wrote.

It is unclear how far the IOC will follow her advice ahead of its executive board meeting Tuesday. It is due to discuss ‘solidarity with Ukraine, the sanctions against Russia and Belarus, and the status of athletes from these countries.’

The IOC’s initial advice to sports bodies within days of the war starting last February was to exclude athletes from Russia and ally Belarus, which allowed itself to be used as a launch pad for Russia’s invasion, and will soon host Moscow’s nukes.

The IOC cited Russia’s ‘extremely grave violation’ of the Olympic Truce in place for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, plus the integrity and security of sports events.

Since January, the IOC has pushed for finding a path to reintegrate Russians and Belarusians into world sports. It pointed to advice from Xanthaki and another UN expert that excluding athletes based only on their passport would be discrimination that breached their human rights.

Xanthaki on Friday briefed members of official athlete panels from most national Olympic bodies, including Ukraine, in a two-hour call hosted by the IOC.

The Ukrainians ‘ferociously disagreed with my analysis,’ she acknowledged in a Twitter exchange, adding that athletes taking part from countries in the Global South agreed with her.

‘It makes no sense in terms of sport,’ Ukrainian skeleton racer Vladyslav Heraskevych, a two-time Olympian, told The Associated Press on Monday about Xanthaki’s views on the call and the difficulty of proving an athlete’s links to war crimes.

Pictured: A Ukrainian artillery unit take a break while waiting for orders to fire towards Russian troops in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, where Galinichev is believed to have been killed

Pictured: A local resident stands next to a car in front of a residential building heavily damaged in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict, in the settlement of Toshkivka, in the Luhansk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, March 24

‘Do we have to make a documentary about how he makes a crime?’ said Heraskevych, who drew attention at last year’s Beijing Games by holding up a ‘No War in Ukraine’ sign after his race.

The IOC was talking Monday with representatives of Olympic sports bodies who will decide for themselves on conditions for letting athletes compete in their upcoming events, and define neutrality.

A strong position against the IOC was taken last week by track and field’s World Athletics, which is refusing to admit any Russians or Belarusians ‘for the foreseeable future.’

Final decisions on Russian athletes competing at the Paris Games still rest with the IOC. In the Olympic Charter, article 44.3 states: ‘Nobody is entitled as of right to participate in the Olympic Games.’            

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