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Ukraine is sliding into authoritarianism, Kiev mayor warns

Vitali Klitschko, Kiev mayor pictured here in his office on February 10, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

The mayor of Kiev has warned that Ukraine is moving towards authoritarianism and the municipal authorities now remain the only independent force in the country.

In an interview with German daily Der Spiegel, published on Friday, Vitali Klitschko shared his assessment of the state of “democracy” in Ukraine and stated that the city government in Ukraine now remains the only independent power in the country, which is increasingly authoritarian amid conflict with Russia.

“At some point, we will no longer be any different from Russia, where everything depends on the whim of one man,” the former heavyweight boxing champion said, adding that during the conflict, the central government has been communicating poorly with local authorities.

“In a year and a half since the beginning of the conflict with Russia, there has not been a single meeting or telephone conversation between [the city of] Kiev and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. At some point, we will get to the situation where everything depends on the mood of a single person,” Kiev mayor told Der Spiegel.

In his interview, Klitschko said he believes the President's Office sees mayors merely as an “atavistic obstacle” to the centralization of power.

Klitschko and Zelensky have been at odds even before the Russia-Ukraine conflict began in February 2022 and relations between them have been marred by multiple public lawsuits.

The conflict has resulted in repeated investigations and attempts to remove the mayor from the Kiev City State Administration.

In June, Ukraine's government reprimanded Klitschko over the state of bomb shelters with two acting district heads being dismissed from their posts over their failure to keep the facilities operational following the deaths of three people locked out on the street during a Russian air raid.

In his ninth year as mayor, Klitschko is seen as one of Zelensky's highest-profile opponents as he became one the first major Ukrainian public figures to admit the failure of his country’s long-heralded counteroffensive against the Russian forces.

In early November, while Zelensky insisted that the counteroffensive was still going on and consistently denied any setbacks, the mayor said the troops were moving “slowly” and were unable to “swiftly breach” fortifications erected by Russia.

Recently, Ukrainian high-ranking military officials have admitted that the battlefield has reached a stalemate and a long attritional war benefiting Moscow's favors.

In an interview with AP news agency, Zelensky conceded its failure only this week, admitting that he now considers the fact that his country’s troops are not retreating at the moment a “satisfying” result.

Russia launched its special operation in Ukraine in February 2022, aiming to stop NATO's encroachment and defend the people in the pro-Moscow regions of Donbas against persecution by Kiev.

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