“We are not only defending our country from Russian aggression but also the NATO countries because we have the same values and we are fighting for the same goal: to be modern European democratic countries,” says kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, speaking fast and look straight into the eyes. In an interview with elDiario.es on the sidelines of the Atlantic Alliance summit in Madrid, he wants to make some messages clear. “I want to thank all those who are supporting Ukraine and ask that they be proactive. If anyone believes that the war is far away and that it will not affect them, they are mistaken. Our priority, that of all Europeans, is to stop this senseless war. Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe and stability in Ukraine will bring stability to the entire region”, he says minutes before leaving the fairgrounds to participate in the planned dinner for the authorities at the Prado Museum.
It is the second time that the mayor has left kyiv since the Russian invasion began on February 24. The first was last month to go to the Davos Forum. When he crosses the corridors of the Ifema pavilion, where the summit is held, his more than two meters in height make it impossible for him to go unnoticed. He has left for a few days the military green clothing and bulletproof vest with which he has often been seen in these four months, visiting the destruction of the residential areas of the city hit by bombing.RELATED
Since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the kyiv region, almost two months ago, thousands of citizens have returned to the capital despite the fact that he continues to warn that returning remains a risk. “We cannot prevent people from coming back, but my priority is to inform them. Is not safe. Anyone who comes back is at risk, no one is safe in our country right now. Every second, every minute a Russian missile can hit any building. It happened a few days ago in kyiv, it happened with the shopping center in Kremenchuk, it happened today in Mikholaiv with destroyed buildings and dead civilians. And for this reason I say that whoever can stay in a safe place should stay there. If they want to come back, which I understand, they take a personal risk”, he repeats.
Accompanying him on his trip to Madrid is his brother Vladimir, president of the Klitschko Foundation, which since the beginning of the war has devoted itself to humanitarian aid. In his new facets it seems difficult to remember the times when they shared the title of world heavyweight boxing champion, a career that earned Klitschko in 2004 the title of Hero of Ukraine, the highest decoration awarded by the Government. The former champion involved in politics, who was one of the leaders of the Euromaidán protests, has arrived in Madrid to strengthen ties and this Wednesday he signed a twinning agreement between the two cities with the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida . “This summit is very important for our country and for our city. kyiv has been and is still the target of Russian aggression. Defending our country and our city is our priority and that is why it is important to receive the support of NATO countries. In our constitution it is clearly stated that our priority is to be part of the European Union and NATO”, he says. Shortly before, in a speech at the forum organized by the Elcano Royal Institute, he had repeated the request that Ukrainian President Volodímir Zelenski has reiterated at all summits: “We need more weapons, modern weapons, anti-aircraft systems.”
But Klitschko also warns about the effects of the other weapons that Russia is deploying in the war. Several European mayors, including that of Madrid, received a video call in recent days from someone who presented himself as Vitali Klitschko and turned out to be an impostor. “This is the hybrid war against Ukraine, and it comes from Russia. It is already known that he was a Russian actor and that he could not have done it without the permission of the Kremlin. They are trying to destroy the connections, the trust that we have built between the municipalities. They called the mayors of Madrid, Berlin, Vienna, Warsaw, trying to spread wrong information, ”he laments. Two Russian comedians have assured German television ARD that they are behind the hoax.
The only time Klitschko doesn’t respond quickly and pause for a few seconds is when asked what the toughest moment of the last four months has been. Memory goes back to the days of the evacuation of civilians from Bucha and Irpin. “They arrived at the train station, thousands… In a corner there were some children. I saw one who was crying and I approached. He was asking about his mother and his father. I told him not to cry, that everything would be fine, that he not worry. A woman approached me and told me: the boy doesn’t know, but his father and mother have died and he doesn’t know that he is left alone. And this was difficult to manage emotionally.”