In his office in the city administration in Kiev, Mayor Klitschko is still fighting - and grateful - a year after the start of the Russian war of aggression. Germany helped save the lives of many people, for example with the Iris-T air defense system. This made life safer.
"I would like to say on behalf of our military: Thank you 1000 times. You are surprised at how good it is. As they say: Every shot is a hit. This system has saved many lives on our soil," said the 51-year-old in an interview of the German Press Agency on Wednesday in his office in the Ukrainian capital.
At the top of the city hall he has his study - with lots of telephones, models for city projects, a golf club and a dumbbell with "Udar" written on it. That stands for Klitschko's party. The six-foot-tall man in the military-green outfit says that even in times of war he keeps fit with sports - but no longer with fistfights. "Unfortunately, I'm fed up with boxing," he says.
"As a former athlete, I always try to do sport because it's the best way to relieve stress. There are many ways to relieve stress. Only sport suits me." Above all, he jogs and rides his bike or sometimes does push-ups at home when there is little time.
Klitschko: Ukraine will not survive without help from the West
As mayor of the city of Kiev, Klitschko repeatedly experiences Russian rocket and drone attacks and is responsible for the functioning of the country's largest metropolis. Despite damage to the infrastructure, Kiev currently has the power supply largely under control. Of the once almost four million people, 3.6 million are now back in the capital, where there was an air alarm on Wednesday. Russia began its war against Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and repeatedly attacked the city.
Klitschko emphasizes that Ukraine's survival depends on Germany, on the West. "We cannot survive without support from the West." He also expressly thanked Germany for the humanitarian aid to overcome the consequences of the war.
When asked if he can understand the criticism of Germany's slow aid, Klitschko, who speaks German, said: "Jein!" Some of the criticism was justified because decisions were made "too hesitantly". "Nevertheless, I want to say thank you. Germany is one of the biggest supporters of Ukraine, a country that has done more than any other European country," he said. "Germany has a special role as a locomotive and bears responsibility for peace throughout Europe."
Modern weapons could help to achieve victory faster. In addition to modern weapons and ammunition, aircraft are also needed. "We can say how much and when it is enough when the country is free from the Russian aggressor. We need a lot," he said.
He is familiar with the discussion about ever new demands from Ukraine. "I understand that it's a huge burden for every country's economy. But everyone in Germany has to understand: we're not just defending our country and our people, we're also defending the same values." Then he added: "It's a huge mistake to think: the war is far away, that doesn't bother me."
Mayor sees danger of a new attack on Kiev
He also sees the danger that Russian troops will attack the capital again, said Klitschko. At the same time, however, he expects that they will fail. "I don't think Russia will win." Last year, Russian troops were already in the suburbs and outskirts of Kiev, but then withdrew. There is now a broad coalition helping Ukraine to defend the country. Nobody needs to be convinced anymore, said Klitschko.
On the anniversary of the war this Friday, Klitschko also wants to commemorate the many dead. "Parents have lost their children, children have lost their parents and are left orphans," he said. At least 8,000 civilians have died in the war so far, according to the UN. Ukraine does not provide any information on the current number of soldiers killed. "There are thousands and thousands. It's a huge number," said Klitschko, who as mayor is also responsible for the city's funeral system. Many of his acquaintances are now dead.
Future with neighbor Russia? - "wound is big"
Is reconciliation possible - after the war and without a President Vladimir Putin in Moscow? "The wound is big. It's difficult because thousands of people have died," says Klitschko, who himself has a Russian mother. He knows about the tensions in many Ukrainian-Russian families and about the problems with Moscow's war propaganda, which is indoctrinating many people there.
However, both countries would have to live together somehow. "It's hard to say how long it will take. But we need a long time." Russia must understand that Ukraine wants to be part of the European Union. "That doesn't fit Putin's vision because he wants to build a huge Russian empire again."
Klitschko doesn't want a debate about the presidency
What is also noticeable in Klitschko's office is that there is no photo of President Volodymyr Zelenskyj in the office, but one of the supreme commander of the armed forces, Valery Salushnyj. A sign? Before the presidential elections in Ukraine next year, the mayor of Kiev is still leaving open whether he will run as a candidate. Today it is about the survival of Ukraine and not about who governs the country, he said. The country must be united.
When asked why there is no alliance with Selenskyj, Klitschko says after a moment's hesitation: "I'm doing my job. I'm ready: my shoulder is always ready for every patriot, for every defender." Klitschko and Selenskyj belong to different parties. "Shoulder to shoulder, we can't do that. It doesn't fit in size - that's a joke," said Klitschko with a laugh. There is a good 30 centimeters difference between him and the 1.70 meter tall Selenskyj.
But does he still dare to lead the country? "That's a provocative question, I'm not thinking about it at the moment," he says - but adds: "But if the country needs me, then I have no other choice."