The destruction in Kyiv
The destruction in Kyiv Reuters

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klitzko, sent a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin via an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper: "You made a mistake and you're going to pay a painful price for it."

The fifty-year-old Klitzko doesn't have much spare time in between bombings and trying to keep the city running even as it is virtually under siege. "We hear the sirens between ten and twenty times a day," he relates. "Some of the city's residents have been in shelters for two weeks already. A huge number of citizens never dreamed that they would one day be carrying weapons - doctors, musicians, actors... They have put on uniforms and they are ready to defend our city and our country."

Klitzko is aware that he may be living on borrowed time, but he maintains his optimism and even gives the impression that his life until now has been a form of preparation for what is currently occurring. "We have big challenges right now but we're not backing down," he says. "The Russians want to steal our future from us and turn us into slaves. Ukraine was always a peaceful country, but now we have to defend ourselves. The reason for this war is very simple: We had the dream of belonging to the European family of nations, and we wanted to create a modern and democratic state - but Putin sees Ukraine as part of his Russian empire."

One of the mayor's key concerns is regarding Russian spies and the possibility that they will succeed in infiltrating key Ukrainian positions, as appears to have been the case a few days ago in an incident involving Denis Kireev, a member of the Ukrainian delegation sent to the negotiations with Russia, who was found shot dead in the street, with conflicting accounts regarding how he met his fate. The fear of spies has given rise to paranoid suspicions among many Ukrainians.

Three rounds of talks have already been held with the Russians, but Klitzko is dismissive of their significance, calling the temporary ceasefires and establishment of humanitarian corridors "Russian propaganda."

"For three to four days we've been trying to use these humanitarian corridors," he says, "but people have no food and no water. The Russians promise to let the refugees through, but they don't do a thing."

Klitzko adds that these are just some examples of Russian attempts to propagandize and he notes others: "They tell their people that there are Nazis, fascists, and radicals in Ukraine, and that Russia is protecting the Ukrainian people from them. In practice, what is happening now is that the Russians are destroying buildings and killing civilians. The numbers have probably passed the 10 thousand-mark, but we really have no way of knowing, as millions of people have fled their homes. This is a catastrophe not just for Ukraine but also for the whole of Europe," he stresses.

"Russia portrayed itself as a member of the global family of nations," Klitzko concludes, "but what this war has shown is that he is harking back to the days of the Soviet empire. Putin's mentality is Soviet - after all, he's an ex-KGB man."