Russia attacks Ukraine: Kyiv mayor proud of citizens’ spirit
As Russian troops close in on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv’s mayor is proud of the spirit of his citizens, but worried about how long they can hold out.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, after a harrowing night of Russian attacks on the outskirts of the city, Mayor Vitali Klitschko remained silent for several seconds when asked if there were plans to evacuate civilians if Russian troops managed to take kyiv.
“We can’t do that, because all the ways are blocked,” he finally said in English. “All roads are blocked and at the moment we are surrounded — there are Russians everywhere and we have no way to evacuate people. And everyone who planned to evacuate has already moved.
The AP was unable to immediately verify the mayor’s report that Kyiv was surrounded, and its spokesperson later tweeted that the mayor had misspoken.
Klitschko himself later backed down from his earlier assessment, saying on his Telegram channel that “In the evening, Russian Internet publications spread information referring to me that kyiv would be surrounded and the evacuation of people is impossible. … Don’t believe the lies! Only trust information from official sources.
When Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Thursday, the capital of 2.8 million people reacted at first with concern but also with a certain coolness. However, nerves began to crumble when grocery stores began to close and the city’s famous deep-tube system turned its stations into bomb shelters.
The mayor confirmed to the AP that nine civilians in kyiv have been killed so far, including a child.
A curfew ordered by Klitschko began at sundown Saturday and is due to last until at least 8 a.m. Monday. His order specified that anyone not allowed outside during this time could be considered a saboteur.
“We hunt these people, and it will be much easier if there is no one on the street,” Klitschko said, saying six Russian saboteurs were killed on Saturday night.
The advance of Russian troops on the city was slower than many military experts expected, but the overall Russian military advantage is well known to all.
“I just spoke to the president (Volodymyr Zelenskyy). Not everyone is feeling so good,” Klitschko said, adding that city government workers were shocked but not depressed. “We show our character, our knowledge, our values.”
Over the past few days, long queues of people – men and women – have been seen waiting to pick up weapons across Ukraine’s capital after authorities decided to freely distribute weapons to anyone ready to defend the city. There are, however, concerns about arming nervous civilians with little military experience amid warnings from Russian saboteurs disguised as Ukrainian police or journalists.
“To be honest, we don’t have 100% control,” Klitschko said. “We built this home defense (system) in a short time – but they are patriotic people.”
“Right now the most important issue is to defend our country,” he added.
Responding to a question about the city’s ability to replenish dwindling food and medicine stocks, Klitscho’s opinion clouded, however.
“We are on the verge of a humanitarian disaster,” he said. “Right now we have electricity, right now we have water and heating in our homes. But the infrastructure is destroyed to deliver food and medicine.
Then, in the same breath, he rallied around as the world heavyweight boxing champion he once was.
“That’s why the message for everyone is to support Ukraine together…we are strong,” he said. “Every Ukrainian is proud to be independent, proud to be Ukrainian, and we are proud to have our own country.”