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Kyiv – Mayor of Kiev Vitaly Klitschko has already been in trouble as a heavyweight, but now he’s in the fight of his life, preparing the city to endure a cold winter under Russian onslaught.

Russia “want a Ukraine without Ukrainians,” he told POLITICO in an exclusive interview at his office at Kyiv City Hall, adding that his compatriots must resist. “They want to freeze us, destroy our electricity, our heating, our generators.

“They do everything to push the Ukrainians away, but these [are] our homes, our cities, and we don’t want to leave,” he added.

Russian b*mbings have increased fears of a new wave of war refugees to western Ukraine and the EU, but Klitschko insisted that morale in the capital held strong. That said, he also stressed the need for new air defense batteries, which could include the U.S.-based Patriot system

Klitschko explained remarks he and other Ukrainian officials earlier this month emphasized that they did not want any of Kiev’s more than 3 million residents to leave or flee. Officials, including Roman Tkachuk, security director of the Kiev city government, raised the prospect of a mass evacuation in the event of a total blackout. He later withdrew his comments.

In the worst case scenario, if the Ukrainian capital is left without heat due to Russian airstrikes targeting the power grid and “if we are unable to supply water and electricity”, then “I will ask people to consider moving to houses in the countryside and neighborhoods around Kiev, where they can have water and heat,” he said.

It’s Klitschko’s worst-case scenario, which urges city residents that if they don’t want to leave, they “must be prepared” and must make sure they have enough stored drinking water and batteries to charge mobile phones and other electrical equipment.

Klitschko explained his winter plans in his office nine floors above Khreshchatyk, Kiev’s main street, where eight years ago he joined the so-called Maidan protests that led to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, Moscow’s satrap in Ukraine. “It was a different world,” he said.

Dressed in camouflage green and a bulletproof vest propped in a corner of an office full of boxing memorabilia and models for future city-building projects, Klitschko said Kyiv was preparing thousands of centers – mostly schools and kindergartens – to shelter residents from the worst. times. They bought wood-burning stoves and generators to heat shelters, although schools were chosen because some already have independent heat sources.

Food, water and medical supplies are also stored. The city has already lost about half its energy capacity as a result of Russian missile att*cks, and neighborhoods are experiencing pre-scheduled shutdowns. Most areas do not have street lighting as part of an effort to reduce energy demand.

Klitschko presents a list of things Kyiv needs from Ukraine’s western allies to survive the winter: generators, sleeping bags, warm clothes, mattresses.

But most of all, he emphasizes that Ukraine needs more air defense systems to completely block its skies and prevent missiles or drones from getting through. “We have to protect the sky above our heads,” he said.

Klitschko stressed that the morale in the capital was holding | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

It describes Russia’s interference in Ukraine’s power grid as an act of terror. In Kiev, strikes also took place in the historic center “near our main university and pre-school playgrounds,” he was indignant.

“And that’s why we need to protect now [the] sky over our citizens’ heads and that’s why we need it [more] instant anti-aircraft systems,” he said. When asked if this would include the U.S. Patriot system, he replied, “Yes, of course; we’d be very happy.”

Hurriedly grabbing lunch — one chocolate bar — he reiterated what he saw as the Russian goal: “They want people to get depressed and run away. And you know what’s interesting? Nobody leaves. They don’t achieve their goals. After the missile att*cks, people are not depressed, they are angry and ready to fight.”

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