In an unusually divisive statement, Ukraine’s president has put boxing legend Vitali Klitschko to work during long periods without electricity in the capital.

In a rare public spat involving Ukrainian leaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized the mayor of Kiev for setting up emergency shelters to help people without power and heat after Russian attacks.

In the wake of crushing Russian missile strikes on its power generation system, Ukraine has set up thousands of so-called “invincibility centers” where people can access heating, water, internet and mobile phone connections.

In an evening speech, Zelenskyy indicated that Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko and his officials had not done enough to help.

“Unfortunately, local authorities have not performed well in all cities. In particular, there are many complaints in Kiev … To say the least, more work is needed,” he said, adding that the level of services available in many Kiev centers was not good enough.

“Please take note – the people of Kiev need more support… a lot [them] been without power for 20 or even 30 hours. We expect quality work from the mayor’s office.”

Zelensky also criticized those he believed had lied in their official reports, but gave no details. To date, more than 4,000 centers have been set up.

The comments were unusual as Zelenskyy has been trying to cultivate an image of national unity during the war and usually showers officials with praise.

Kiev city council said early Saturday that water connections have been restored throughout the city, but about 130,000 residents are without electricity.

All power, water, heating and communications services would be restored within 24 hours, the city government said.

‘It’s terror’

Klitschko, a 51-year-old former professional boxer, was elected mayor of Kyiv in 2014.

He said earlier on Friday that more than 400 “heating points” had been set up in the Ukrainian capital, allowing residents to charge electronic devices, drink hot tea and find practical information essential to life in the darkened city.

Writing on Telegram, Klitschko said the stations are located in schools and other public institutions and will be open daily.

Klitschko has yet to respond to Zelenskyy’s criticism. The pressure on the boxing legend is now heavier than ever.

“If I tried to explain to you all the challenges I have, we would [would] weeks,” said Klitschko said recently. “It’s terror, she [left] freezing us – without electricity, without heating, without water.”

Power still arrives – sometimes – but can no longer be relied upon. In a city with ubiquitous Wi-Fi and where almost everything can be done online, hours of power outages are the horrendous new normal for many.

Zelenskyy said Russian attacks damaged about half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

In darkened restaurants in Kiev, diners navigate meals in near-darkness, served by waiters with candles. Residents wake up in the middle of the night – when it’s their turn to get power back for a few hours – to shower and do laundry.

“A huge challenge,” said Klitschko.

Fewer missiles and drones appear to be getting through the capital’s air defenses as they have been reinforced with Western-supplied missile-shooting systems.

“Things are going much better than before. Absolutely,” Klitschko said. “But it’s not enough… We need more to protect other cities.”



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