As if a snub to President Zelenskyy, who started a sparring with mayor Klitschko, the latter was awarded the honorary title of "Person of the Year" on May 22. This is the second such award for Vitali Klitschko. For the first time he was awarded as "Person of the Year" in 2004—at that time as an athlete. Now, as a public figure, one of the leaders of modern Ukraine.
It is unlikely that such news suited the taste of the head of state. But Zelenskyy also had his own minute (in fact, more) of fame. On May 20, marking the second anniversary of the inauguration, he held a press conference, where he recalled Klitschko as well.
"What does he want from me? He constantly writes to me, calls, makes appointments, even comes to the Office of the President," Zelenskyy complains about Klitschko's obtrusiveness.
"He appealed to me not to dismiss him from the post of ееру Сhairman (KSCA—ed.), although I have the authority. I told him: no problems, please, work, show results," the President added.
"I am a well-mannered person," Klitschko was offended. And he added that over the past six months he had not had a single rendezvous with the President.
"And when there is no communication, is it really about effective work and cooperation?" the mayor asked.
Once, two years ago...
The attack on Klitschko from Bankova began back in 2019, shortly after Zelenskyy had been elected President. The then Chairman of the Office of the President, Andriy Bohdan, stated that he would like to share the posts of the head of the capital and the head of the Kyiv City State Administration. Here is the story.
When talking to the media RBC-Ukraine, Bohdan noted that he would not want anyone to steal from the city budget. It sounded like a kind of accusation against Klitschko. Because allegedly due to the theft (this is the context) that it becomes necessary to separate the chairs of the mayor and the head of the Kyiv City State Administration. At the same time, when asked whether the posts would really be separated, Bohdan replied: "I don’t know."
And after that he added that there was an unspoken agreement with Klitschko: "the mayor of Kyiv demonstrates an open, honest, pro-state position in economic and political issues and in the interests of the citizens of Kyiv", and for this "we will make a personnel decision on him." If Klitschko does not do all this, then Zelenskyy’s team will also make a "personnel decision". "But these will be different personnel decisions," Bohdan emphasized.
Responding to such unconcealed threats, the mayor of Kyiv went to... America. On July 31, 2019, Klitschko posted on his FB page a photo with the former mayor of New York and former lawyer of Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani. Basically, Klitschko appointed the United States to be the referee in his conflict with Andriy Bohdan. Political scientists and political experts broke many spears at that time, discussing whether Klitschko had the moral right to such an escapade and to humiliate the newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
One way or another, Vitali Klitschko was left to himself at that time. At least for some time to come, because a new round of conflict began later.
The Prime Minister was offended as well
Perhaps it was the local elections held in October 2020 that added courage to the Kyiv mayor. The citizens of Kyiv re-elected him, in fact, for the third time (taking into account the short term of 2014-2015 and his second term in 2015-2020). Insiders said that Klitschko even began to dream of more, namely, the presidency. And although the presidential rating of the capital's mayor is at the level of statistical error, dreaming is not forbidden.
Fueled by his success, Vitali Klitschko began to teach Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal how to run the house. Being outraged, Shmyhal threatened the mayor with dismissal from the post of the Chairman of the Kyiv City State Administration, that is, he did the same thing that Andriy Bohdan had once done. The public criticism of the mayor was also joined by the Office of the President, in particular, the Deputy Chairman of the OP Kyrylo Timoshenko, with whom Klitschko had a conflict two years ago. The reason for most of the current critical statements by the central government is the poor organization of work during the total lockdown in the capital, as well as the alleged unwillingness of the mayor to join the Big Construction project.
However, are there any other hidden reasons for the central government to be dissatisfied with the city authorities? Chairman of the Board at the Center for Applied Political Research "Penta" Volodymyr Fesenko, calls business interests and the distribution of cash flows the key reason for the pressure on the capital’s authorities. That is, it is not a lockdown or even presidential ambitions, but the fact that Klitschko does not want to share the shadow income of city leaders. This is one of the working versions, let us remember it and move on to the chronicle of recent events.
Searches, searches, searches
The morning of May 18 didn’t begin for Vitali Klitschko with coffee. Employees of the Security Service of Ukraine came with a search to an apartment building on Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street, where he lives. The mayor was in training.
This news caused excitement in the media, however, the spokesperson of the SSU Artem Dekhtiarenko soon announced that their employees came to search not the mayor’s home, but that of his neighbors, who live on the floor below. According to him, investigative measures were carried out not only in the Kyiv mayor house, but also at several other facilities. Dekhtiarenko assured that this was done within the framework of criminal proceedings on the falsification of oil products.
Klitschko did not believe this version, stating that the action was against him and was aimed at psychological pressure.
Moreover, in recent years, law enforcement officers have repeatedly visited the facilities of the city authorities. For instance, on May 11-12, the Prosecutor's Office of Kyiv, together with the National Police, the SSU, and the State Fiscal Service, within the framework of "exposing corruption schemes for the peculation of funds from the capital and state budgets" conducted searches in the premises of the Kyiv City State Administration, Kyivzelenbud, the public utility company Spetszhytlofond, the public utility corporation Kyivavtodor, and the enterprise Kyivmisksvitlo.
The security forces were also looking for evidence of the crime at the place of residence of the person involved. As of now, 11 persons were served with the notice of charges, in particular—the current officials of the Kyiv City State Administration and employees of the utility companies. And Vitali Klitschko commented on these searches as follows:
«Over the past two days, law enforcement officers and tax authorities have literally nightmarized the city authorities. This was not the case in Ukraine, even in the twisted times of Yanukovych! In fact, what is happening is pressure on the metropolitan government and the suppression of local government. Pressure on me personally.»
Mayor of Kyiv
So what do they want from the mayor?
But even when it comes to pressure, then each pressure has its own specific purpose. Volodymyr Fesenko believes that the goal here is twofold—to really cleanse Kyiv of corruption and slightly muffle the ardor of Klitschko, who has recently become completely incapable of negotiating.
«The first problem is corruption in public utility companies in Kyiv. I think few people doubt that such corruption has been, is and will be. And this applies not only to Kyiv, but many, if not most, large and small cities in our country. Both teams of mayors and their allies in the city council, and various senior officials earn money from the city economy, utility companies, and the city budget. And this is an established and very large-scale practice. The only problem is the scale of "earning", the obviousness (or arrogance) in the schemes used.»
The second problem is the political relations between the mayor of Kyiv and the central government. In recent weeks, there has been a clear aggravation in these relations, the political scientist noted.
He refused to talk about the reasons for such an aggravation, although he added that there are different versions. But in this context, according to Fesenko, one must understand that the central government has much more instruments of influence than the mayor of Kyiv. And it is enough for it to take advantage of those objective problems (and weak points) that were mentioned above. And searches are a traditional instrument of influence.
Not scare, but remove
The goal of the central government may be not to force Klitschko to peace, but simply to remove him. Of course, not from the elective position of the mayor, but from the position of the head of the Kyiv City State Administration, where the President appoints him. Why is this so necessary? Because Volodymyr Zelenskyy is going to run for a second presidential term, and when it comes to voting for him (or against him) by the residents of Kyiv, he needs an "insider" leading the capital.
Coming with searches to Klitschko has both an external and an internal basis, says the managing partner of the National Anti-Crisis Group Taras Zagorodny.
«External is supposedly a fight against corruption, but actually, it is about the fact that we are already witnessing the start of Zelenskyy's presidential campaign. Therefore, bites on potential candidates begin. Klitschko, according to Bankova, looks like a real alternative to Zelenskyy, because he has a reputation and everyone knows how he made money. Plus, he doesn't have such a big disapproval rating. Therefore, all this confusion has unfolded. And even during the visit of Blinken and Nuland, they had a separate program with Klitschko that could not remain unnoticed.»
Managing partner of the National Anti-Crisis Group
Law on capital as a stumbling block
But no matter what alternative Klitschko looks like, it will be that easy to remove him from the post of Chairman of the Kyiv City State Administration. The law on the capital is drafted in such a way that the President of Ukraine can only put in this chair the person whom the citizens of Kyiv have elected as mayor. For this, there are several decisions of the Constitutional Court at once. That is, Zelenskyy can legally dismiss Klitschko from the post of head of the Kyiv City State Administration. But he cannot appoint someone else to this position.
Nonsense? Of course. To solve the problem, a new law must be passed. And in 2019, the "servants of the people" prepared a draft law that would clearly distinguish between the powers of the mayor and the head of the Kyiv City State Administration. The document, edited by then deputy Oleksandr Tkachenko, "servants" failed to pass through the parliament. Now it is morally outdated in order to simply submit it to the session hall.
So how to properly emerge from the conflict that arose between the President and the mayor? No one has an unambiguous answer to the question. If not taking into account the legislative dimension, that is, the drafting of a new directory according to which the capital will live, then it is better for both sides to curb their aggression a little. And although each of the two opponents believes that the accusation of the opposite side only plays in his favor, this is not the case.
After all, more than one political reputation has suffered from constant attacks on its vis-à-vis.