Ukraine's new cabinet has decided to strip Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko of his powers at the head of the capital city's state administration, ratcheting up a power struggle between the former world boxing champion and recently elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has just decided to approve the dismissal of Vitali Klitschko as the head of the Kyiv city state administration. To me, this is an attack on local government and a very wrong decision," Oleksiy Goncharenko, a deputy from the European Solidarity faction, said in a Facebook video post on September 4.
Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, Zelenskiy's hand-picked nominee who was confirmed by parliament on August 29, confirmed the move.
While Kyiv citizens elect a mayor, the president appoints and dismisses the head of the Kyiv city administration at the behest of the government. Traditionally, the mayor has held both positions to allow smoother governing of the capital region.
Andriy Bohdan, head of the presidential office, has accused the mayor of enabling graft and of not controlling the Kyiv city council.
Alleging that Klitschko turned a blind eye to corruption in the city's construction industry, Bohdan said on July 30 that a person speaking on behalf of the mayor called him to offer a $20 million bribe to let the mayor stay on.
Klitschko has denied the allegations and in response said he had asked the National Anti-Corruption Bureau to investigate Bohdan’s bribery allegation.
Klitschko has held the executive seat of Kyiv since June 2014, with his current mandate expiring in October this year.
Zelenskiy on July 24 asked the Cabinet of Ministers to dismiss Klitschko, who has vowed he “won’t give up.”
On August 1, Vasyl Ryabchuk, spokesman for former Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, said the "current" cabinet decided not to be involved in the issue, though he would not comment on whether a new cabinet would take the same stance.
Parliament approved a new cabinet on the same day it confirmed Honcharuk to his post.
A December 2003 Constitutional Court ruling said that the mayor has exclusive rights to select the city administration head.
In an earlier interview with RFE/RL, Klitschko said that the actions of Zelenskiy’s staff “smells of authoritarianism," adding that if he loses his city management powers, he’ll go to the courts, as well as to “the public" and will "take all the steps to prevent this.”