The mayor of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, talked to Iva Puljic-Sego, via a video link from Kyiv, in an exclusive interview for N1 Television on Friday. In the interview, Klitschko shared his views on the Russian invasion and described the current situation in Ukraine and in Kyiv.
(The following is a transcription of the interview, translated from Croatian as published by N1.)
It has been a month since the start of the war.
”It is no secret that Kyiv is the main target, and Russian forces had a plan to occupy Kyiv four weeks ago, but everyone was surprised at how resilient and strong the Ukrainian army is. We have destroyed the aggressor’s plans to destroy Kyiv. Our soldiers in the north of the city managed to defend the capital of Ukraine, and everyone was surprised by this. Why are we so strong? Because the Russian aggressors are fighting for money, while we are fighting for our independence, our freedom, we are defending our children and our families. We have a great motivation in fighting to defend the future of our children,” said Klitschko.
Klitschko recently said that he would sooner die rather than give up on Kyiv, Puljic-Sego recalled.
“Yes, that is true. Russian soldiers will never enter our city, we are very motivated… For example, I went to see this place where an apartment building had been destroyed, and there was a man there, he asked me what to do. I told him to evacuate, his home disappeared, he was homeless. I suggested he should move to someplace safe. But he refused, he said he didn’t want to leave and asked me to give him a weapon so that he can defend his city.
I visited many places, and I have seen many people who could never have imagined that they would be taking up arms – these are people from peaceful, everyday professions, like doctors, musicians, actors – they have all taken up arms now and have joined the defense of our city. There is a huge wave of patriotism in Ukraine. And I would like to say this again – we will never give up, we do not want to live under a dictatorship, we want to live in a free country, one where human rights are respected. And that is why we do not want to return under the auspices of the Soviet Union. We see our future as a country that is part of the European family. We are not just defending our capital and our homeland here, we are defending the values of the European Union,” said Klitschko.
When asked whether he expected more support from the West, Klitschko started by thanking everyone who helped, who supported Ukraine, who sent humanitarian aid and funding and everyone who welcomed Ukrainian refugees. But he also warned that there is still some fence-sitting among some politicians, without naming any names.
“But some politicians say they support Ukraine in private, but on the other hand refuse to break off relations with Russia. Remember, never trust the Russians. And secondly, all business relations with the Russians must stop because that means you are giving money to Russia which uses it to invest in its army, and then this results in these horrible pictures from Ukraine,” said Klitschko.
Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, asked yesterday Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, to stop buying oil and gas from Russia and to send arms to Ukraine. “Hungary is not the only EU country which refused that demand,” Puljic-Sego said.
“In this situation, you have to decide for yourself whether you support Ukraine – which is fighting for its freedom and for European values – or whether you are on the side of the aggressor, on the Russian side. Right now, the world is black-and-white and you have to decide whether to help the Russians in their war efforts in this bloody war against civilians, or whether you are on the side of the democratic world which supports Ukraine. We now need the support, and we appreciate every support we get from all our partners and true friends. In this situation there is no half-way stance, you just have to decide whether you are for war or for peace.
Politicians need to understand that. This is the biggest war since World War II. If anyone thinks that this war is far away, they are mistaken – this war concerns everyone in Europe because we do not know what Putin’s ultimate ambition is. His ultimate ambition is to rebuild the Soviet Union. Today it’s about Donetsk and Luhansk, tomorrow maybe it’s Poland. The question is how far Putin is willing to go, so this war could affect everyone in the European Union,” Klitschko said.
What does he expect from US President, Joe Biden, the United States, and NATO?
“We expect weapons, we need defensive weapons. We have been demanding the closure of airspace above Ukraine for a long time now. If you can’t do that, give us weapons, and we will close the sky ourselves,” said Klitschko.
The United States decided to send a lot of help in terms of weapons, has that help already arrived in Ukraine?
“Some of that military equipment is already in Ukraine, but we have no time to waste because civilians die every minute. Look at images from Bucha, Kharkiv, Mariupol… It is a tragedy, not only for Ukrainians, but for the entire world,” he replied.
Klitschko added that Russians have committed war crimes and should be brought to justice.
“Yeah, definitively. Those who started this war must also take responsibility and be held to account by international institutions. They must pay the price for this bloody war… We have seen how many children, women, civilians have been killed, and the infrastructure and economy of our country have been completely destroyed. Russian soldiers are killing civilians so that’s why unity is key. The whole world must impose severe sanctions on Russia, and we also need humanitarian aid, and we need defensive weapons. We are not only fighting to defend our city and our homeland, we are fighting for the whole of Europe,” Klitschko said.
At the moment, the southern city of Mariupol seems to be experiencing the worst suffering in the entire country.
“I talked with the mayor of Mariupol a few hours ago, he told me that 80 percent of all residential buildings have been destroyed. The entire city actually has been destroyed. I don’t know how many civilians were killed because we can’t count them, as there are a lot of bodies buried under the rubble. The mayor says we are talking about thousands of civilians killed, their city no longer exists really,” Klitschko said.
He repeated that giving up is not an option.
“The lives of all Ukrainians have been destroyed – 40 million people live in this country. And all of their lives have been destroyed. During the day and during the night we hear explosions, people spend all their time in shelters, there are lots of soldiers in the streets, a lot of people have already left, most women and children have been evacuated by now. Now that the men have stayed, they are prepared to fight to defend our city and our future. We will never kneel! It would be better to die or get killed than to give up. The Russians will never take our city. And please, don’t be passive about this, because we are fighting for all of you, as well,” Klitschko told N1.
Full video can be viewed below