KYIV: The mayor of Kyiv, former professional boxer Vitali Klitschko, traded rhetorical punches on Sunday with Ukraine’s president and his allies over how to help residents withstand power cuts, deriding their disputes as “senseless” amid Russia’s military campaign.
Klitschko said 430 “warming centres” were helping residents cope with the effects of Russian attacks on power stations and more than 100 more were planned in case of extreme conditions. President Volodymyr Zelensky noted last week there were a lot of complaints about measures adopted in the capital.
“I do not want to become involved in political battles, particularly in the current situation,” Klitschko said in a video posted on Telegram.
“That is senseless. I have things to do in the city.”
Klitschko, who had been mired in several disputes with Zelensky before the invasion, said the president’s allies had engaged in “manipulation” about the city’s efforts, including “incomprehensible photos” posted online.
“To put it mildly, this is not nice. Not for Ukrainians or for our foreign partners,” Klitschko said. “Today, like never before, everyone must unite and work together. And here we have some sort of political games.”
But one of the president’s top allies landed a new blow, saying Klitschko’s explanations “differ considerably” from what residents were reporting. He gave the mayor a week to rectify issues and submit to inspections of the help centres.
“I have a proposal. City authorities have a week to correct the errors and we conduct inspections together with the mayor,” David Arakhamia, head of the president’s Servant of the People group in parliament, said on Telegram.
Zelensky has in the past week promoted the efforts of thousands of “invincibility centres” set up throughout Ukraine to provide heat, water, internet and mobile phone links.
In his nightly video address on Friday, Zelensky said the Kyiv mayor had not done enough to help beleaguered residents.
“To put it mildly, more work is needed,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky was elected by a landslide in 2019, five years after Klitschko first took office. Before the war, the two leaders had clashed over the way the capital and its services were being run.