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Klitschko claims Ukraine descending into authoritarianism under Zelensky

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champion, appeared to throw a hard shot at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, claiming the country is sliding into authoritarianism as its war with Russia drags on.

Klitschko, who has butted heads with Zelenskyy since Russia invaded in February 2022, made the remarks during an interview with German news website Der Speigel that was published Friday.

“At some point we will no longer be any different from Russia, where everything depends on the whim of one man,” Klitschko told the outlet, according to the Kyiv Independent. He further accused Zelenskyy’s office of viewing mayors as an obstacle preventing the centralization of power.

Klitschko, who has served as the mayor of Kyiv since June 2014, praised Ukraine’s mayors for being the strong leaders necessary to protect their citizens while claiming that Ukraine was largely leaderless and disorganized during the early months of the war.

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Vitali Klitschko

Vitali Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion, has served as mayor of Kyiv since 2014. (Oleksandr Gusev/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Klitschko also said he and Zelenskyy have not spoken to each other since Russia invaded Ukraine, a sign of the apparent rift between the two.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Klitschko have clashed over the state of emergency shelters in Kyiv. (Dmytro Larin/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Klitschko and Zelenskyy had a public feud in November 2022 when the mayor criticized the president over the conditions of emergency shelters that were supposed to help residents with heat and electricity amid Russian bombings.

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After three people were locked outside an air raid shelter and killed during a Russian attack in June, Zelenskyy ordered an audit that found only 15% of Kyiv’s 4,655 bomb shelters were suitable and only 44% were freely accessible, Reuters reported at the time. 

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Klitschko at the time said he accepted some responsibility for the incident, but asserted that appointees of Zelenskyy were also to blame, accusing his political opponents of working to discredit him and see him removed from office.

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