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Kyiv Mayor Klitschko: Russia will go as far as we allow it

Jon Shelton
January 26, 2023

With Kyiv again hit by Russian air attacks, the city's mayor says Ukrainians are prepared to die for their freedom. He tells DW Russia is "unhappy" about Western tank deliveries because it is afraid of modern hardware.

Ukrainians stand on a street blocked by police after a Russian rocket attack
Russia's attacks on civilian infrastrure have only made Ukrainians more defiant, says Mayor KlitschkoImage: Daniel Cole/AP/picture alliance

After a night of Russian kamikaze drone and missile attacks that authorities said killed 11, injured 11 and sparked a nationwide air alert, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told DW that Russia is trying "to freeze civilians in our hometown, to destroy normal life."

However, he says, people are not dejected but rather "angry and ready to fight." Klitschko said despite the dire situation caused by Moscow's attacks on civilian infrastructure in the dead of winter, Ukrainians remain defiant.

Ukrainians are "fighting for our independence, for our freedom. That's why we have a lot of courage," he added. "We are ready to die for our future."

The mayor summed up their attitude with a phrase that has become popular of late: "Better without electricity and water, than with Russians."

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko on Russia's missile attacks

Russians 'afraid' of superior Western arms

Klitschko thanked Western allies for the aid they have provided, especially modern antiaircraft artillery.

On Thursday, Russian forces fired over 50 missiles and two dozen kamikaze drones targeting 11 regions across Ukraine, the State Emergency Service said. The large majority were intercepted. Some 35 buildings were damaged.

Klitschko also spoke about the battle tanks promised by the US, Germany and EU allies Wednesday and the displeasure Russia has voiced over the announcement: "Yes, of course, they are very unhappy with modern weapons, with the tanks, it's dangerous for Russian forces."

Klitschko went on to say the Russians are "afraid" of the modern arms they will be confronted with after starting the war.

He told DW, "everyone in the world can see the true face of this invasion, of this war," which he called "a genocide" in which "thousands of civilians have died, where cities and villages have been destroyed."

'They want to rebuild the Russian Empire'

Speaking of Ukraine's efforts, Klitschko underscored the need to stop Russia, which he said only understands strength.

"The battle is very important, the will to win is very important … But it's also very important [to have] modern weapons."

"We defend right now our homes, our country," he said. "And please don't forget, we defend not just our homes, we defend also the same values — European, modern, democratic values."

Then the boxer turned politician warned Ukraine was also "defending European countries," saying, "I'm more than sure Russia [will] go as far [as] we allow it to go. We listen to voices from Moscow. They're talking about Poland. They're talking about the Baltic countries." 

"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin presents himself as the collector of former territory of the Russian Empire — they want to rebuild the Russian Empire," Klitschko said. "We don't want to be part of the Russian Empire. Our goal is to be part of the European family, as a democratic, modern country."

Edited by: Natalie Muller