Vitali Klitschko’s plea to West: ‘Send blankets and generators or we’ll freeze to death’

Vitali Klitschko mayor of Kyiv Ukraine

Kyiv mayor urges allies to speed up aid efforts as his ravaged city prepares for its biggest fight yet – against the harsh winter

BRUSSELS CORRESPONDENT, IN KYIV 28 October 2022 • 7:54pm

Ukrainians will freeze to death this winter if the West does not urgently send blankets and generators to keep them warm, Vitali Klitschko has said.

The 51-year-old mayor of Kyiv, and former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, told The Telegraph that increasing Russian attacks on power plants have left his country on the brink of a fresh humanitarian crisis

“We are doing everything we can do to save the lives of our people and to protect them,” he said, banging his huge fists on the table. 

“But this winter will definitely be a huge challenge for us.”

In little over a fortnight, Moscow’s strikes on power stations and the wider grid have left the country grappling with outages and questioning whether the system will survive the harsh winter months.

During that time, about 40 per cent of Ukraine’s total energy infrastructure had been seriously damaged in drone and missile attacks co-ordinated by General Sergei Surovikin, the newest commander of the Kremlin’s invasion. 

In Kyiv, local residents were warned of a “sharp deterioration” in the region’s electricity supplies as a result of the strikes

Kyiv fire attack Russia Ukraine war
About 40 per cent of Ukraine’s total energy infrastructure had been destroyed by Russian attacks CREDIT: State Emergency Service Handbout/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Mr Klitschko said that the change in tactics, which bear the hallmark of Vladimir Putin’s latest military commander, reflected the Russian president’s need to claim even a minor victory from his faltering invasion

In the coming days, night-time temperatures across Ukraine are expected to plunge, hitting lows of -20C in some parts. 

With many Ukrainians living in buildings scarred by the war, without gas and windows, electricity is one of the only methods they have to heat their homes. 

For the 6ft 7in bureaucrat once known as “Dr Ironfist”, Putin’s invasion is no longer a war on Ukraine’s armed forces, but a war on its civilians, attempting to use the winter weather to freeze them into submission. 

Mr Klitschko and his team have managed to purchase generators and have prepared 1,000 mobile heating points in Kyiv. 

However, he admitted that they are still preparing for a “worst-case scenario” in their hometown as winter draws in. 

On the day he met The Telegraph, Mr Klitschko had just taken delivery of a fire engine and two ambulances from a German charitable foundation. 

He is grateful for the support of Western countries, but military and humanitarian aid has been “too slow” to arrive in Ukraine.

Vitali Klitschko Kyiv mayor Ukraine fire engine
Vitali Klitschko with a fire engine donated by a German charity CREDIT: Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph

“We pay for every minute, every hour, every day with our lives,” he said. 

While he admitted that Ukraine is desperate for heavy weaponry and air-defence systems, blankets, winter clothes and generators are also needed to survive this winter.

“It’s a critical time for this kind of support,” he admitted.

Mr Klitschko and his brother, Wladimir, ruled heavyweight boxing for more than a decade before the former moved into politics. 

Their sporting stardom has made them a well-oiled diplomatic machine, lobbying world leaders and businesses for support not just for Kyiv, their hometown, but for the whole of Ukraine.

In the capital, they are mobbed wherever they go. 

Such is their popularity, Vitali was second only to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, on a list of targets for Russian assassins in the early days of the war.

He shrugged off the threat; appearing in public and travelling the world is key to raising supplies of weaponry. 

Vitali Klitschko Kyiv mayor Ukraine fire engine
Vitali Klitschko mobbed by locals in Kyiv, where his star power speaks for itself CREDIT: Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph

“I get asked when enough is enough for weapons deliveries,” he said. “Enough is enough when the war is over.”

As the mayor of Kyiv since 2014, Mr Klitschko set his heart on delivering new homes, high-paying jobs and a sustainable welfare system to the Ukrainian capital’s residents.

But now it pained him to warn the country’s “greatest asset”, its people, to stay away this winter.

The risk of a humanitarian issue is pretty big, if they [Ukrainians] have an opportunity to stay outside of Ukraine this winter, please stay there,” he conceded.

“But our main goal is to bring our people back, the biggest value of Ukraine is our citizens and our people.”  

While Mr Klitschko is only in charge of the city of Kyiv, its outer suburbs, including IrpinBucha and Borodyanka, witnessed some of the most horrific violence against civilians.

Mr Klitschko now believed that Putin’s lack of success in capturing the eastern Donbas region has driven him to wreak vengeance on ordinary citizens

Kyiv citizens Ukraine Russia invasion
Kyiv’s locals try to get on with their lives amid the destruction, be it by playing chess… CREDIT: Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph
Kyiv citizens Ukraine Russia invasion
…or posing for Instagram-friendly photos in the park CREDIT: Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph

“Russia doesn’t have success in the east of Ukraine. Right now, our armed forces have moved them back to the border of Ukraine,” he said.

Putin attacks our infrastructure and presents it to his people as the destruction of Ukraine… He just wants a round of applause from them.”

“If anything, Putin is a liar. From the beginning, this is not a special military operation. It’s not a war – war has rules; you never touch women or children. It’s genocide.”

Mr Klitschko’s bravery in staying in Kyiv and supporting the defence of Ukraine’s capital has boosted his public support to an unparalleled height. 

But there is no room for complacency, with residents wary of previously undelivered pledges before the invasion.

Kyiv resident Maria told The Telegraph: “In general, I don’t want to condemn anyone from our authorities now. I feel grateful for the actions directed at improving our lives during the war… But at the same time, I remember Mr Klitschko’s unfulfilled pledges from the past.”

2 comments

  1. ….”It’s not a war – war has rules; you never touch women or children. It’s genocide.”

    That is right sir. Now the allies must try much harder to help Ukraine defend its civilians in the way that he asks.
    But they must also help Ukraine inflict huge damage on RuZZian cities. Make those bastards freeze to death too.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I also liked this quote, “I get asked when enough is enough for weapons deliveries.” he said, “enough is enough when the war is over.”
    Even after the war, operation porcupine should be birthed from the lessons learned. Ukraine should forevermore create and maintain an overwhelming domestic military deterrent.

    Liked by 5 people

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