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Kyiv Mayor Klitschko, President Zelenskiy Battle Over City Management Rights

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on July 26.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on July 26.

KYIV -- Mayor Vitali Klitschko is on a collision course with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy over his executive powers as the head of the city state administration, the national-level branch of Ukraine's government that administers the capital.

Zelenskiy’s office has asked the former championship boxer to step down and relinquish his powers, but stay on in the more symbolic role as mayor.

Presidential office head Andriy Bohdan said Klitschko must go at a July 30 briefing, accusing the mayor of enabling graft and of not controlling the Kyiv city council.

"He [Klitschko] has lost control of the situation in the city during last five years,” Bohdan said. "There are two or three 'watchmen'…And if he does not find a compromise with them, there will be no majority in the Kyiv city council and, accordingly, he cannot be an effective mayor."

Alleging that Klitschko turned a blind eye on corruption in the city's construction industry, Bohdan said that a person speaking on behalf of the mayor called him to offer a $20 million bribe to let the mayor stay on.

Klitschko denied the allegations.

In response, Klitschko on August 1 said he had asked the National Anticorruption Bureau to investigate Bohdan’s bribery allegation, according to a statement.

"If somebody said something in somebody's name for illicit gains…then detectives should either name the suspects and identify them, otherwise I’ll ask Bohdan for an apology for spreading false information," Klitschko said.

By law, Kyiv has special administrative status for self-governance. According to the Constitution, the president appoints and dismisses the Kyiv city administration head at the behest of the government.

Zelenskiy on July 24 asked the Cabinet of Ministers to dismiss Klitschko.

Klitschko later told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service that he "won’t give up."

However, a December 2003 Constitutional Court ruling said that the mayor has exclusive rights to select the city administration head.

Klitschko occupied the executive seat of Kyiv on June 25, 2014 after being elected mayor on June 4 of that year.

In an interview with RFE/RL earlier this month, Klitschko said that the actions of Zelenskiy’s staff "smell of authoritarianism."

"The influence of the president and government on local self-governance directly contradicts the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights," Klitschko said.

He also criticized Zelenskiy's Servant of the People party of trying to separate the powers of the mayor and city administration head.

The community, he said, "forms the budget, has challenges, it has land, property, and it chooses a manager who manages it and reports to the community."

Klitschko said that, if he loses his city management powers, he'll go to the courts, as well as to "the public, we'll take all the steps to prevent this."

Kyiv’s 2019 budget is the equivalent of $2.24 billion.

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    RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

    RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service has seen its audience grow significantly since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022 and is among the most cited media outlets in the country. Its bold, in-depth reporting from the front lines has won many accolades and awards. Its comprehensive coverage also includes award-winning reporting by the Donbas.Realities and Crimea.Realities projects and the Schemes investigative unit.