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Zelenskyy vs Klitschko. An unequal fight for Ukraine’s capital

The ex-boxer star Klitschko and the ex-comedy star Zelenskyy had strained relations long before the parliamentary elections. Picture: apostrophe.ua 

Ukraine

On 4 September, the new Cabinet of Ministers headed by Oleksiy Honcharuk decided to dismiss Kyiv mayor Volodymyr Klitschko from the position of head of the Kyiv City State Administration. Since 2003 there is a practice that the position should be held by one person. However, the intentions of Zelenskyy’s team to seize power in Kyiv became clear in mid-summer 2019 before the parliamentary elections. So far there is only one formal step missing for Klitschko’s dismissal, which is the president’s decision.

The ex-boxer star Klitschko and the ex-comedy star Zelenskyy had strained relations long before the parliamentary elections. As many public figures in Ukraine, Klitschko was used to being a common target for Zelenskyy’s Studio Kvartal 95 jokes. The boxer’s slow manner of talking and ambivalent statements provided fruitful material for humor and satire.

But Klitschko has never been a person who would get these jokes about him. Moreover, recently the ex-boxer stated that the Kvartal jokes against him were intended to discredit him as a politician before the elections.

In an interview with the BBC Ukrainian service, the Kyiv mayor explained his vision of why the jokes against him have intensified. According to him, in summer 2018 he had a conversation with Oleksandr Tkachenko, then head of the 1+1 TV channel which broadcast Kvartal 95 jokes and is now an MP in the president’s Servant of the People party. The latter asked whether Klitschko was not going to campaign for president in 2019.

“I said ‘no’ and the channel instantly became loyal. At first I did not get what that meant. But when Zelenskyy stated he was going to campaign for the presidency, all the puzzles were put in place.”

Some regard the current campaign of Zelenskyy’s team against Klitschko as a personal conflict between the president and the mayor. Whether it is the main reason or not, there are much higher interests in Kyiv.

The confrontation between Zelenskyy’s team and Klitschko is developing publicly. The Kyiv mayor started to react to the information against him on Facebook. He also gave numerous interviews on the conflict. After the cabinet’s decision, Klitshcko stated that the president passed the final decision to the head of his office Andriy Bohdan.

The arguments of the two sides

Both Klitschko’s and Zelenskyy’s teams accuse each other of having business interests in the capital, in particular in the construction sector. Ironically and sadly for Kyiv citizens, both parties’ accusations are not groundless.

One of the main accusations towards Klitschko from Zelenskyy’s team is that it is Vadim Stolar, Kyiv’s grey cardinal, who is the real decision-maker in the capital.

Vadym Stolar. Photo: biz.liga.net

Stolar is familiar for Kyiv citizens as a candidate during different kinds of elections where he earned the nickname Vadym Stodolar (one hundred dollars) for bribing voters. During the last parliamentary elections he passed the business at the single-mandate constituency to related to him person who did not pass. Stolar himself ran on the party list of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform for Life and has now become an MP.

Journalists regarded him as the real Kyiv manager long before the current accusations from Zelenskyy’s team.

He is dealing with operational supervision, he is the Kyiv supervisor, I would say. The most scandal-ridden and corrupt areas of the Kyiv City Administration are managed by people who formally don’t have any relation to Vadym Stolar, they are not subordinated to him. However, according to constructors, these people are ruled by Vadym Stolar,” said Yuriy Butusov, chief editor of censor.net.

The media have frequently reported that Stolar is the unofficial Kyiv head and that he is involved in decisions regarding appointments to the Kyiv City State Administration.

For example, in 2017 Viktor Hleba, an expert on urban planning, told Skhemy journalists that when the question on his appointment to a department of the City Administration was put on the agenda, he was invited to Stolar’s office.

Journalists also reported on Klitschko’s and Stolar’s informal meetings.

Klitschko denies that Stolar is in any way related to decision making in Kyiv and blames Zelenskyy’s team for dirty campaigning against him.

Among the initiators of this, he names Tkachenko, the above-mentioned ex-general producer of 1+1, who is also on the list of most probable candidates for the position in the Kyiv Administration instead of Klitschko.

According to Novoye Vremya journalists, Tkachenko wanted to gain a position within the government, however the ministry he could have gone to work in was given to his opponent. So now he will have to be satisfied with heading the City Administration. Previously Klitschko stated that the head of the president’s office told him to listen to Tkachenko when making decisions.

Among the other people whose advice Klitschko has allegedly listened to is Andriy Vavrysh, the president’s consultant on Kyiv development, a constructor who previously held the position of deputy of the main Kyiv architect.

Andriy Vavrysh. Photo: politica.com.ua

Vavrysh started to work in the City Administration in 2010. He was attributed with giving permission for numerous scandal-ridden construction projects, for example construction of the residential complex in the protected zone of the Sofia Kyivska, famous Kyiv church which is on the UNESCO world heritage list.

In summer 2015 Klitschko obliged him to leave his post. Referring to the city activist Heorhiy Mohylnyi, the media writes that a month after he was to have written his letter of resignation, he issued two contracts for the development of construction plans in the capital to companies related to him.

Now media write that Vavrysh is going to become a curator of all construction policy in Kyiv.

Legal nuances

The issue of the allocation and execution of power between the state government and local self-government in the capital contains legal tricks.

In 2003, the Constitutional Court decided that the Kyiv City State Administration simultaneously implements the functions of the executive body of the City Council and the local government. That is why it has to be headed by a person who was elected as a city head.

However, when Viktor Yanukovych became president and in reality usurped power, the majority in parliament he controlled voted to give him the right to appoint anyone he wanted to Kyiv administration positions. As a result, in 2010 Yanukovych’s Party of Regions managed to gain power in Kyiv.

Klitschko became the Kyiv mayor in 2014 and newly elected president Petro Poroshenko appointed him to the position of head of the Kyiv Administration.

MPs from different factions in the previous Ukrainian parliament applied to the Constitutional Court for explanations regarding the constitution’s article on allocation and implementation of state power and local self-government in the capital.

Whether Zelenskyy finally dismisses Klitschko from the position of the Kyiv City State Administration, the latter will remain Kyiv mayor until the next local elections. The regular ones are scheduled for November 2020.

 

Edited by: Michael Garrood

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