‘We will never give up’: Kyiv mayor defiant amid Russian advance

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Vitali Klitschko says Ukrainian forces will stop Russian forces entering the capital.

Mayor of Kyiv and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko speaks with journalists
Mayor of Kyiv and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

The mayor of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, has said that Russian forces will “never ever” be able to enter the city and that citizens will fight and “never give up” amid a Russian troop advance on the capital.

Vitali Klitschko’s comments on Monday came hours after one person was reported killed and a dozen others wounded when an apartment block in northern Kyiv was hit by what is believed to be artillery shelling.

“I feel so bad, as every Ukrainian citizen, because nobody feels safe right now in Ukraine,” Klitschko told Al Jazeera.

“The Russian propaganda … explains they target only military forces,” he said. “Today, we have pictures of [civilian] buildings where very peaceful people lived, was destroyed.”

The attack destroyed apartments on several floors, damaging both the front and back sides of the residential structure.

“People died, many injured … Kyiv is not the first one,” Klitschko said, referencing other Ukrainian cities that have been subject to Russian shelling – such as the port city of Mariupol.

“We have a lot of experience in the past couple of weeks with Russian aggression,” he said.

Ukrainian authorities say the besieged city of Mariupol has been subject to relentless bombardment since Russian troops surrounded it on March 2.

Since then, the roughly 400,000 people who remain in Mariupol have been left without access to water, food and medicine. Heat and phone services – and electricity in many areas – have been cut.

Residents remove their belongings from a destroyed building after it was hit by artillery shelling in Kyiv
Residents remove their belongings from a destroyed building after it was hit by artillery shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine [Felipe Dana/AP Photo]

‘We’re ready to fight’

In Kyiv, Klitschko said Russia’s goal was to bring “panic to the city”. “We will never give up, we will fight,” he said.

“Russians killed our children, destroyed our buildings, destroyed our city, we’re ready to fight … and defend our city.”

Klitschko said he believed the Ukrainian forces would continue to repel Russian attempts to enter Kyiv, even as they edge closer to the heart of the capital.

“Never ever will Russians come to our city. I promise that as the mayor of Kyiv, and I told the people, the citizens, I told everyone [that],” he said.

The United Nations has said at least 596 civilians have died since Russia’s invasion began on February 24, but it believed the real toll is much higher since it has not yet been able to corroborate reports from areas where hostilities are continuing.

Russia has denied targeting civilians, describing its actions as a “special operation” to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.

Meanwhile, the United States and NATO have been urgently shipping weapons into Ukraine, sending anti-tank weapons and Stinger surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons.

The Western arms deliveries have been vital in enabling Ukrainians to fight Russian forces so far.

“Everyone … from every profession, is prepared to take up weapons and ready to defend our future,” Klitschko said.

“We defend the principles, we defend the same values, it’s very important now to help Ukraine … because this war can touch anyone, not just in Europe,” he said.

Ukraine has repeatedly called on the US-led alliance to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, saying it is necessary to protect civilians under Russian shelling.

But Western allies have ruled out a no-fly zone, saying they want to avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia.

If NATO cannot provide Ukraine with a no-fly zone status, Klitschko urged the world for additional military assistance.

“Please, give us modern weapons … and we, by ourselves, will close the air above our heads,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera