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In the eyes of the mayor of Kyiv, his country is heading in the wrong direction

In the eyes of the mayor of Kyiv, his country is heading in the wrong direction
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Monday, 22 January, 2024, 15:06

His country is at war, and he knows everyone is supposed to rally behind the flag and the President. But Vitaly Klitschko says he also has a responsibility to speak out about what he sees as Ukraine’s drift away from the democratic principles it’s supposed to be fighting for.

In the eyes of the mayor of Kyiv, his country is heading in the wrong direction, becoming increasingly autocratic. For the past 23 months, Ukraine’s main television channels have broadcast a single program, United News Telemarathon, that Mr. Klitschko says allows little space for dissenting voices – while journalists critical of President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration have come under pressure. Mr. Klitschko says more than 200 mayors and local council heads around the country have been replaced with military administrators since the Russian invasion began in February, 2022.

Both measures were adopted under the martial law Mr. Zelensky declared in response to the attack. But Mr. Klitschko worries that the freedoms and reforms Ukrainians fought for over the course of two pro-Western revolutions earlier this century are being undone.

“The movement, what we see right now, I can’t say it’s democracy. It smells of the vertical and of authoritarianism,” Mr. Klitschko told The Globe and Mail in an interview inside his city’s administration building. “Behind this is the wish of some people – I can’t say their names – but they wish everything to be centralized, and that’s why I see centralized media and TV in Ukraine, and they also try to centralize the power, to build a vertical.”