Vitali Klitschko for A2 CNN: We want to join the West, Russia wants the Soviet Union back

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A2 CNN is in Kiev to bring evidence of the war in Ukraine, which will be one year old in a few days. Mayor Vitali Klitschko recounts the horrors of war and Vladimir Putin’s dark intentions in an exclusive interview.

A2: Thank you for having us at City Hall. You said a year ago that you’d rather die than hand over the keys to the city. Kiev, like many other cities, was defended at a high human cost. How is the balance of your work as a mayor, evaluation for the war, and dedication to Ukraine after a year?

Vitali Klitschko: This war has affected all Ukrainians, as well as our citizens here. In our city, over 700 structures, including 417 residential structures, were destroyed. More than 150 civilians were killed, including four children. Millions of people’s normal lives in Ukraine, but also throughout Europe, have been destroyed. We are currently facing numerous challenges. Every Ukrainian wants to end this senseless war and become an independent country. The desire to become a member of the European family is precisely what sparked this senseless war. The Russians want to reintegrate us into the Russian empire.

A2: You, President Zelensky, and other Ukrainian leaders have little or no military experience. How do you lead a real war against a superpower like Russia with such precision?

Vitali Klitschko:  Indeed, everyone refers to Russia as a superpower. However, our forces have destroyed large units of the world’s most powerful army. We have relentlessly defended our country. Of course, the Russians have many capabilities, many people, and many weapons, but the main priority in any war is the will and spirit of the people. We are in our home , our homeland. We protect our families and children, as well as our future. Ukrainian troops are extremely motivated. Soldiers in Russia fight for money. Do you see the difference? Should you die for money or to protect your family? This is the most significant distinction between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers. We are highly motivated. This is extremely important. However, it is also dependent on the weapons. We are defending democratic values with modern weapons provided by our partners. Our goal is to establish a democratic country. The Russians do not accept this and wish to return us to the Russian empire. We do not want to live under an authoritarian regime such as that of Russia. We see the future as part of the European family, which is why we fight for it. That is why we are so motivated. As result, Russians are willing to violate all international laws, revealing the true face of this “special operation”. Thousands of civilians were killed. Bucha’s heinous scenes were broadcast around the world. Terrible images from Kharkiv, Mariupol, and other Ukrainian cities. As a result, the Russians lack motivation.

A2: Living in a war zone is like living with death. Seeing the deaths of so many people on the road, but also knowing that you could be in danger tomorrow. How do you inspire others? Gain their trust and motivate them to give their all for the sake of the country?

Vitali Klitschko: I don’t need to motivate the people because the people is already very motivated. I can give you tens of thousands of cases. People get out of homes and want to join. Civilians who have never held a weapon ask me where the weapons are. They don’t want to leave the city. They refuse to leave the country. They want to live in Ukraine, a democratic European country. We are a peaceful people. Ukraine has historically been a peaceful country. We’ve never been aggressive towards anyone. But there is no other option now. We must defend our homes and families.

A2: You once said in an interview that it’s like a nightmare that’s been going on for too long. This is where you come in. Do you have any plans to recover?

Vitali Klitschko: Obviously. We are speaking with our partners and citizens. We are planning for tomorrow today. We are all hoping that this war will end this year. For our friends, the best answer is Ukraine’s success. The success of Ukraine is also the best answer for the Russians. Our political and economic success. We will strive to develop the country, implement reforms, and see our country as a member of the European family with a European standard of living. This is our objective.

A2: From the outside, Ukraine appears to be a war zone every day. You defend yourself and attack the Russians while the entire world watches on television. How is the EU’s assistance in this war which occurrs inside Ukraine, but only one step away from the EU’s borders.

Vitali Klitschko: There is no other option. We have to fight and defend ourselves. We would like to thank every country that has assisted Ukraine. The invasion of Ukraine is the most dramatic event in modern history. Ukraine is Europe’s largest country. Destabilization in Ukraine destabilizes the entire region. As a result, every European country wishes for peace to return to Europe. As a result, we must act. We no longer have any other options. We must use weapons to defend our independence and territorial integrity. We thank everyone who assists Ukraine. We cannot survive without economic support and military assistance. We want to thank everyone who has helped Ukraine and our desire to be a democratic European country.

A2: The conflict affects not only Ukraine and Russia, but also other European countries.

Vitali Klitschko: That was the biggest blunder. Many politicians predicted that Russia would be content with Crimea. However, we have seen that they are not satisfied with this. Even the annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk has not satisfied them. Putin intends to invade Ukraine. We also hear Moscow speeches about Poland, the Baltic countries, and the former Soviet empire. I’ve warned Germans not to forget that a portion of Germany was once a part of the Soviet empire, where Putin worked as a KGB agent many years ago. It is now a question of values. This is a battle of values. The options are between democracy and dictatorship. We do not want to live in a dictatorship. We see the future as a component of a democratic world. We thank everyone who has shown their support for Ukraine.

A2: Russia mentions the word “Ukrainian territory”, but not “Ukrainian people”. It appears to be genocide, as in previous Soviet republics.

Vitali Klitschko: The obvious answer is that Putin wants property. Putin desires territory. Putin wants Ukraine but not the Ukrainians.

A2: Ukraine is fighting for itself, but it is committed to global democracy. What do you expect from the international community, and how much assistance is the West providing Ukraine in this war?

Vitali Klitschko: We appreciate the military and medical assistance provided to our refugees, as well as all of the support we have received in Ukraine. Because we are no longer just defending Ukraine. We are defending the same values that other European countries share. I’m confident Putin will keep going for as long as he can. He acts as a real estate manager. As the Soviet empire included the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, his greatest ambition… Putin has stated that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the greatest disaster for Russia. His ambition is to resurrect the Soviet empire. That is why he considers everything to be Russian property.

A2: Wars can last years. One year has passed since February 24th. Is there a way out of this war, or will you continue to live on the edge of survival? Is it possible that other parties will become involved in this war?

Vitali Klitschko: The Russians are now discussing solutions. “Let’s find a solution,” they say. “A workable solution.” We are willing to discuss it, but giving Russia a portion of Ukraine’s territory is neither a compromise nor a solution. We are now defending international and democratic values. The war is not only about Ukraine, but also about values. This is something that everyone in Europe should understand. The biggest mistake is to see the war as far away as possible and believe that it does not affect you. This war has already affected everyone on the European continent. This war has the potential to have global ramifications. Remember that Ukraine has five nuclear power plants, one of which, the largest in Europe, caught fire in Zaporizhia. If it goes off, it will be a disaster that would affect everyone on Earth. We must do everything possible to put an end to this senseless war. The Russians must leave Ukraine, and peace must be restored. However, Russians understand no other language. They only comprehend power. As a result, we must defend the motherland. There is no other option. If we share the same international values, everyone in Europe should support Ukraine. It is the key to European peace and freedom.

A2: When the war began a year ago, you were most likely unprepared. But now that you’ve created knowledge, how do you feel about war?

Vitali Klitschko: It’s not a war about nationalism. It has nothing to do with religion. It comes down to values. Remember that Ukraine has over 70 nationalities. People speak in various languages and pray in different religious buildings. Right now, the Russians are attempting to make excuses by claiming to be protecting the Russian people. I have half Russian ancestry. My mother is from Russia. It is not a conflict with the Russians. It is a war against Mr. Putin’s aggressive Russian policy.

A2: How is Vitali Klitschko’s day as military, despite the fact that you have to play the mayor?

Vitali Klitschko: I am not a trained soldier. I am in charge of our city’s services. It is genocide as well as terrorism. In the dead of winter, Russia launched missiles to destroy civilian infrastructure. They destroyed the power plants. They let us freeze in the cold, and they tried to leave us without water, heating, or electricity. We must provide these services to our people every day, from morning to evening. We are responsible for providing the services. Please keep in mind that Kiev is the largest city in Eastern Europe. Our city now has a population of nearly 4 million people. Providing medical services, education, services, and many other things for which I am responsible is a huge responsibility. It’s a round-the-clock job. We have been fighting for survival for a year. We were, of course, unprepared for this war. We had not expected the war to occur in our country. But there is no other option now. We must fight to protect our homes, cities, and homeland.

A2: After 500 years of Ottoman occupation, Albania, my country, had a 25-year period of glory when it faced the Ottoman Empire under the leadership of our national hero, Skanderbeg. He stated that unity leads to power. How Ukraine currently perceives union? Are the tanks arriving from Europe a show of solidarity? Not just from Europe, but also from the United States.

Vitali Klitschko: The key to peace and freedom in Ukraine is unity. Other languages are not understood by Russians. We must be strong. This is the only way they can show respect for Ukraine. It is critical to be strong, as well as to have modern weapons. It is critical to demonstrate maturity and unity. It is the key to achieving peace and freedom. We are not hostile to the Russians. But now we must defend our country and keep Russian soldiers away from it. This is our top priority.

A2: You mentioned their departure. Klitschko has a steel fist in the boxing ring. How tenacious is Klitschko in his fight for Ukraine and Europe today?

Vitali Klitschko: The desire to win is the main priority in sports and in life, in battles and in war. The spirit is extremely important. It is critical to have a good team on your side. People who are trustworthy and responsible. As a result, this is our primary objective. You can only succeed in sports if you surround yourself with positive people. It is the same in everyday life. You need good people with knowledge and who are professionals in every way. You will be strong if you work with the strong. That is why we place strong people in our municipalities, cities, and countries. It is extremely important. Collaborative effort. You can’t do it on your own. You cannot fight on your own. You need good people around you who are positive, knowledgeable, and motivated. That is why we continue to fight. One thing is clear from my previous job. You don’t win if you don’t fight. Now that we are fighting for our future and the future of our children, I am confident that we will prevail in this senseless war. We will keep the Russians at bay while fighting for our independence and the future of our children. I am confident that we will triumph. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped us.

A2: Thank you very much!