Ukraine needs foreign help to build a future separate from Russia, says mayor of Kyiv | Vitali Klitschko

Ukraine needs international reconstruction aid to build a European future separate from the authoritarian and dictatorial Russia of Vladimir Putin, the mayor of Kyiv has said.

Vitali Klitschko, the capital’s mayor since 2014, said Ukraine’s main priority was winning the war, but the long-term goal was rebuilding the country, which he said would also help roll back millions of people who had fled their homes.

“Our next step is to rebuild the country and to do a lot of reforms so as not to be [only] European geographically, but European in quality of life,” he said.

Klitschko, one of leaders of the 2013-2014 Maidan protests, said Ukraine’s desire to live in an independent, free and democratic country was the reason Putin launched the invasion. “The reason for this senseless war is our wish to be part of the European family, with a European quality of life, with values ​​- human rights, freedom of the press, democratic values.” He said it was never accepted by Russia “because they feel that Ukraine is part of the Russian empire. And we don’t want to go back to the USSR.”

The mayor was speaking to the Guardian ahead of a major conference on Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery in Berlin on Tuesday, which will be opened by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

He said Ukraine had no desire to be controlled by Moscow, where “they are slowly moving towards North Korea”, and hoped to follow, Poland, Hungary and other central European countries on the way to greater prosperity and European integration.

Klitschko outlined his rebuilding hopes to von der Leyen during a recent virtual meeting earlier this month. He had to cancel a face-to-face with her in Brussels after Russia has launched dozens of attacks on civilian targets across Ukraine, ostensibly in revenge for the explosion of the Kerch Bridge, connecting occupied Crimea to Russia. In Kyiv, missiles slammed into the historic heart of the city, hitting a bridge once frequented by tourists and leaving a crater in a park near a children’s playground.

Several mayors of European cities joined the meeting, who pledged their support to help Ukraine rebuild. Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, told the Guardian it was essential to begin reconstruction immediately, even as missile attacks and explosive-laden drones were launched. “The Ukrainian people need hope,” he said, but also urgent repairs to infrastructure, such as schools, pipelines and power plants, “to allow Ukraine to survive at this time. difficult”.

Nardella led a delegation of eight mayors to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in August, where they pledged their expertise to help rebuild Ukraine to environmentally friendly European standards. Nardella suggested that successful reconstruction could help Ukraine’s EU membership, an event that is years away. He said: “These reconstructions must be based on sustainability, on inclusive social values, so this could be a great opportunity also to speed up the procedure for joining the European Union.”

For now, the focus is on urgency. Riga is sending buses to Kyiv to replace destroyed vehicles and recently promised to send generators. Mārtiņš Staķis, the mayor of the Baltic city, hopes Riga can help rebuild Ukrainian kindergartens. Visit Kyiv, Irpin and Borodyanka Over the summer, he saw the same Soviet-era kindergartens being built all over the former Soviet Union, including Latvia. “We know them so well. We can repair them in six months, which makes them more efficient.

As the enthusiasm to help Ukraine shines through, the reconstruction costs will be colossal. The World Bank last month put the bill at $349bn (€359bn, £315bn), a figure released before the latest rounds of deadly attacks. The mayors of the city, whose own funds are limited, have promised Kyiv to push the EU to finance the reconstruction.

Meanwhile, Kyiv faces its toughest winter in 30 years. Klitschko, who is responsible for providing the capital’s heat, power and water supply, said streetlights were turned off at night to save energy and called for help to defend power stations Ukrainians.

“First of all, we need the best weapons,” Klitschko said, listing air defense and anti-rocket systems to protect Ukrainian skies from Russian missiles and drones. Klitschko, who before the war criticized the German government for its contribution of 5,000 helmetssaid he was grateful for Berlin’s support, noting its financial and political help.

He added: “It’s never enough as long as we have war in Ukraine. When the “last Russian soldier left Ukraine, I [will] tell you right now, thank you very much, that was enough. But for now, we must continue. »

The former heavyweight boxing champion said Ukrainian soldiers were much more motivated to win the war. “As a veteran, it doesn’t matter how big or how strong you are. It’s important, but the main point is the will to win, your drive. We’re so driven, because we’re standing up for our families, our home. Russian army, on the other hand, was fighting for money, he said.

“Everything will depend on us to expel the Russians from Ukraine, from our territory.”

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