Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, says he's working to avoid an 'apocalypse' winter after Zelenskyy scolded him over his heating shelters

Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko of Kyiv, Ukraine.STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
  • Kyiv's mayor, the former boxer Vitali Klitschko, said the city was bracing for a brutal winter.

  • He told Reuters a shortage of shelters and a strained power grid could mean the "apocalypse."

  • He also responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who'd suggested Kyiv was unprepared.

The mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine, clapped back at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday, acknowledging the city could face what he called an "apocalypse" winter while also saying his administration was working to avoid it.

The comments from Vitali Klitschko, the Hall of Fame boxer turned mayor of the Ukrainian capital, indicate lingering tension with Zelenskyy, who Reuters noted publicly jabbed Kyiv officials recently over Kyiv's response to increasing Russian airstrikes.

In an interview with Reuters, Klitschko said that with a mere 500 heating hubs for 3.6 million people, Kyiv might have to call for widespread evacuations in some scenarios.

"Kyiv might lose power, water, and heat supply," he said. "The apocalypse might happen, like in Hollywood films, when it's not possible to live in homes considering the low temperature. But we are fighting and doing everything we can to make sure that this does not happen."

In the interview, Klitschko said 152 civilians had been killed in Kyiv and 678 buildings had been wrecked since Russia launched its full-scale assault on February 24.

More recently — with temperatures dropping — Russia has targeted Ukraine's power supply. A World Health Organization official in late November said Russia had crippled about half of Ukraine's energy infrastructure. Reuters noted that in one of his recent nightly addresses, Zelenskyy leveled criticism including that Kyiv didn't have enough heating shelters. Klitschko on Wednesday called the remarks a "strange" message.

"It looks strange when we are united against a single enemy, but we start to fight within the country," Klitschko told Reuters, blaming Zelenskyy's comments on "politics."

Yet Klitschko did concede that "for a city of 3 million," the 500 heating shelters would be "nothing" should the city lose power completely. Winter temperatures can fall to 5 degrees Fahrenheit in winter in Kyiv, Reuters noted.

"If electricity supply continues to be absent while outside temperatures remain low, we will unfortunately be forced to drain water from buildings," Klitschko told Reuters. "Right now there is heating in Kyiv, there is electricity," he continued, adding that at least for the time being there was no need for evacuation.

The mayor told residents to remain calm but to prepare for "various scenarios."

Correction: December 12, 2022 — An earlier version this story misstated when Vitali Klitschko made some of his remarks. His interview with Reuters was Wednesday, not Thursday. A previous photo caption also included outdated information. Klitschko didn't announce a curfew on Saturday.

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