In the city council of his partner city, the mayor of Kiev talks about the war in Ukraine with a dramatic plea for help. In Bavaria he reacts helplessly. The question arises: is the city doing enough?
Vitali Klitschko is holding a handful of balls. Now they are everywhere in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, he reports. So in his city, where Klitschko has been mayor for eight years. They come from Russian rockets, cluster munitions that fire into the air after detonating, seriously injuring or killing their victims. What he says cannot leave you indifferent.
In his speech to Munich city council Wednesday morning, which was broadcast live from Kiev, Klitschko, who became known in Germany as a boxing champion, describes his situation. The city is “half empty” and there are constant sirens and explosions.
The bullets shown by Klitschko are nothing more than a weapon of mass destruction: they do not hit a target, but are simply meant to destroy anything that gets in their way. For Klitschko it is clear: “What Russia is committing is a genocide”. A genocide against the Ukrainians.
Vitali Klitschko is the mayor of the twin city of Munich
Kiev is the twin city of Munich: in 1992 the first Consulate General of Ukraine in the world was opened here. Klitschko underlines the link between the two cities and thanks the support of Bavaria and its capital. Humanitarian aid goes from there to Ukraine, Klitschko reports that there are ambulances and fire engines. But anyone who listens to Klitschko knows that all this cannot be enough for him.
“I understand it’s painful, economically,” he addressed the Munich city council – and indirectly the federal government. “Stop relations with Russia!” All the money currently flowing into Russia is financing the attack on Ukraine, Klitschko says.
He is convinced that a compromise with the Russian government around President Waldimir Putin is not possible. Of course, Russia could be sanctioned. “But we say: ‘A wolf loses his teeth, but never his character,'” explains Klitschko.
Relations between Munich and Russia are a problem
Klitschko’s words are having an impact on local politicians in Munich and the city may feel targeted too: Of course, international politics is the job of the federal government, explains Mayor Dieter Reiter. “I agree with you,” he tells Klitschko. The federal government knows how to sanction Russia and will continue to do so.
Munich “has no relationship with Russia,” says Reiter. And he picks up opposition: “How can you lie to yourself like this?” replies ÖDP municipal councilor Nicola Holtmann.
The city can’t even stop installing gas heating in its area, to become independent of Russian supplies. Reiter sticks to his point of view, confirming it and at the same time putting it into perspective: “If you were informed, you would know that we are doing everything possible to avoid relations with Russia,” he replies to Holtmann.
Munich gazes helplessly at the horrors of Kiev
Reiter’s party colleague and leader of the SPD parliamentary group, Anne Hübner, says: “All we can do is provide humanitarian aid.” The question remains: How much Klitschko thanked in her speech is really enough? And of course: what is still in power in Munich?
A shopping center in Kiev destroyed by Russia during the war in Ukraine: Mayor Vitali Klitschko asks for more help from the Munich city council. (Credit: ZUMA Wire / imago images)
Because that only the city can contribute to ending the war and dying remains a utopia. It may bring some relief, but she has little left to stop the atrocities, except helplessness. Klitschko speaks, but Reiter has to respond to his specific requests: “We are also desperate.” But at least also: “Full of hope”. And: “If you need something, tell us.”
Vitali Klitschko describes the cruelty of the war in Ukraine
The city council agrees on many points of Klitschko’s speech: how cruel this war is and how important the Ukrainian resistance is for the whole of Europe. “Thank you for your fight for freedom,” Reiter tells his Kiev counterpart.
What gives cause for despair are descriptions like these: “I was told that 70 tons of bodies were buried,” says Klitschko. “I asked, ’70 tons, what kind of a weird statement is that? ‘ But the answer was that people are so tattered from rockets that you can’t count them anymore. You can just pick up parts and measure them by weight. “
Klitschko, who you met outside the ring as a friendly and charming person, has no reason to put a slight smile on his face as usual. His eyes are always directed to the ground, his facial expressions stiff. When he talks about Putin, he narrows his eyes in anger. He was a boxing superstar, today he is sitting in military gear in Kiev, in the middle of the war.
Klitschko: “We will never be slaves of Russia”
What is the reason for hoping? “We never kneel,” says Klitschko. “We will never become Russia’s slaves.” People who never wanted to fight were now asking for weapons to defend themselves. “Nobody thought we would defend ourselves so bravely,” says Klitschko. For democracy and freedom.
Growing up in the Soviet Union, he thought the West wanted to attack and destroy his homeland. Today he knows it was all just propaganda. “When I met people in Germany, I noticed how friendly they are,” he says. “They live as we want to live”.