Kiev’s mayor says city ‘encircled,’ then backtracks
Ukraine’s capital has been “blocked” by the Russian military, Kiev’s mayor, former world heavyweight champion boxer Vitali Klitschko told the Associated Press in an interview on Sunday when asked whether the evacuation of civilians from the city was possible.
“We can’t do that, because all ways are blocked,” he stated, according to AP. “Right now we are encircled.”
The AP noted it was unable to independently verify the claim made by the official. Shortly after the interview was published, however, the mayor took to social media to refute the bold claim, bizarrely blaming his own statement to the leading New York-headquartered news agency on “Russian media.”
“In the evening, Russian internet outlets spread information citing myself that Kyiv has been allegedly surrounded and evacuation of people was impossible,” Klitschko wrote.
“Don’t believe lies! Trust information only from official sources,” he added.
He did not specify which “official sources” should be trusted. Moscow has remained silent on the mayor’s claim, with no officials suggesting prior to or after his interview that the Ukrainian capital has been indeed “encircled.”
The years-long Ukrainian crisis got even more turbulent this week, when Russia launched a large-scale offensive against the country’s military, citing the need to protect the breakaway republics in the east of the country from an allegedly imminent attack by Kiev, a charge the Ukrainian side has denied, branding the attack “unprovoked.”
Days before the military operation kicked off, Moscow formally recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics, which broke away from Ukraine back in 2014 after the Maidan coup and endured years of armed conflict with the Kiev forces.