Kiev mayor Klitschko accuses Ukraine presidency of 'pressure'

Kiev (AFP) –


Vitali Klitschko, the former boxing champion who is now mayor of Ukraine's capital Kiev, accused President Volodymyr Zelensky's administration of "pressure" after the country's security services searched his appartment block Tuesday.

Klitschko, who has served as Kiev's elected mayor since 2014, has been at odds with Zelensky since soon after the president was elected in 2019, when he accused his administration of an illegal attempt to curb his powers.

Although the authorities said the raid had nothing to do with Klitschko, the mayor accused the presidency of being behind the raid.

"What is happening today looks to me like psychological pressure" he said in a statement.

In a raid early Tuesday a dozen men -- some of them armed with automatic rifles -- entered his residential building in central Kiev, he said.

A video surveillance camera recorded the armed men gathering near the entrance to his apartment as he himself was not at home, said the mayor.

The SBU security service, which is led by a Zelensky close ally, later confirmed the raid on the building but said it had nothing to do with Klitschko.

The raid followed searches conducted by law enforcement last week in several municipal companies and in the home of a Klitschko ally, part of a probe into embezzlement of public funds and tax evasion.

Local media reports however described a new standoff between the mayor and the presidency, which sees Klitschko as a potential rival to Zelensky in the 2024 presidential election.

- 'Someone is very annoyed' -

Klitschko on Tuesday called the raids "nothing but pressure on the local government and attempts to destabilise the situation in Ukraine's capital city.

"It is no secret that the President Office often holds meetings on account of Klitschko," he said.

"Someone is very annoyed with the city initiatives."

Zelensky, a popular comic actor turned president, in 2019 called for Klitschko to lose some of his powers, and his then prime minister accused the mayor of failing to root out corruption.

Zelensky controls a majority in Ukraine's parliament and if Klitschko was removed from office that could pave the way for him to put an ally in charge of Kiev.

A sporting legend with pro-European views, Klitschko has made significant efforts to renovate public places and infrastructure in the city of three million.

But critics accuse him of turning a blind eye to the controversial activity of developers building huge malls and luxury apartment blocks in the city.