Zelensky is on his way out, Kyiv's mayor Vitali Klitschko claims

Vitali Klitschko claims ‘Zelensky is on his way out’: Former boxing champ says Ukraine’s leader is ‘paying for his mistakes’ as counter-offensive grinds to a halt

  • Klitschko urged support for Zelensky but said he would pay for his failures

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is failing as a war leader and will soon be on his way out of the job, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko has suggested.

Klitschko, a former top boxer and brother of heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, admitted in an interview with Swiss outlet ’20 minuten’ that Ukraine’s counteroffensive had stalled and Zelensky is now ‘paying for his mistakes’.

He said he was not surprised Zelensky’s popularity has fallen compared to that of the army, judging ‘people see who is effective and who is not. And there were and many expectations… People wonder why we weren’t better prepared for this war.’

‘The President has an important function today and we must support him until the end of the war. But at the end of this war, every politician will pay for his successes or failures,’ he said, brushing off suggestions he would consider running for the role.

‘It would be stupid to think about it today. Today the only question is whether Ukraine continues to exist at all,’ he told the outlet. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C-L) and Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi (C-R) visiting of Ukraine’s army command post in Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, shared November 30

Rescues work at a site of a residential building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in the town of Novohrodivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine November 30

Ukrainian soldiers fire targets as Russia and Ukraine war continues in the direction of Avdiivka of Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on December 1, 2023

Vitaly Klitchko attends the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight world title fight between Russia’s Oleg Maskaev and Uganda’s Peter Okhello in Moscow December 10, 2006

Zelensky’s popularity among Ukrainians remains significantly higher than it was in 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine. More than 50 per cent still strongly approve of their president’s actions, according to polling by Statista.

Ukrainians are also more clear on their position; when Zelensky became President in 2019, nearly half said it was difficult to answer or had no answer. Today, two per cent give the same answer.

But support has become somewhat more divided over the last 18 months, with the number strongly approving falling from 74 per cent in early 2022 to 59 per cent by June and settling around 58 per cent by February this year.

Most of those now ‘somewhat approve’ of Zelensky’s actions – with only three per cent strongly opposing his policy.

Zelensky has been open to admitting the large counteroffensive planned this spring had failed to meet its objectives.

On Friday, December 1, he said the plan had not achieved ‘the desired results’.

READ MORE: As the devastating war in Ukraine approaches the two-year mark, IAN BIRRELL goes to Kyiv to see how morale is holding up. His verdict? Despite mounting casualties, the will to beat Putin burns brighter than ever

Speaking in Kyiv, Mr Zelensky conceded Ukraine had ‘wanted faster results’. Asked if he felt pressure to enter peace talks, he said: ‘I don’t feel it yet.’

But he added: ‘Some voices are always heard.’ Zelensky previously warned the conflict in Gaza risked pulling attention away from Ukraine’s dire need for international support.

Zelensky has expressed regret about the failure of western partners to pledge material support for Ukraine, urging that a win for Putin will set a dangerous precedent. 

Britain has indeed failed to extend its pledged £2.3bn aid package to Ukraine, which is set to run out in March 2024.

Putin, meanwhile, has militarised Russia’s economy and push a sevenfold increase in tank production.

Military onlookers warn the West against complacency. 

Philip Ingram MBE, retired British Army Colonel and military intelligence specialist, told MailOnline: ‘If support slips off before Ukraine has managed to defeat the Russians then that’s billions of dollars worth of aid that’s been given to Ukraine so far that has been wasted.

‘Any Western government, including the US government, that decides to waste all that money and not give any more will be committing political suicide. The issue that there is, is what will happen if you get a maverick into head of government in a particular country, and we’ve got potential for Donald Trump coming back. That’s a worrying thing. 

‘Donald Trump, almost certainly, is in a position where he is influenced unduly by Vladimir Putin and by Russia. And you I would suggest from an intelligence perspective, there is a strong possibility that Vladimir Putin has got a degree of compromise. That means that Trump’s position is compromised.’

For the meantime, he says, ‘Zelensky isn’t anywhere near negotiating’ peace terms with Putin, and is still cutting away at Russia’s grip in the east and south.

‘From a tactical perspective, the ground is getting very very muddy indeed. That makes it virtually impossible for armoured manoeuvre operations to go on … And it’s going to remain like that until late spring, early summer next year, apart from potentially when the ground freezes. 

‘[This] will more likely favour the Ukrainians because the Ukrainians with their western equipment is much more suited for operating inside your the very cold temperatures and dealing with the Russians. But for the Russians, in a defensive position, it is much easier to defend than it is to attack and these sorts of conditions.

A Ukrainian soldier in trenches retaken from the Russian army on the Vuhledar front line as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on December 1

A local resident walks in front of damaged residential buildings, amid Russia’s attack non Ukraine, in the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine October 17, 2023

A wounded woman is seen as airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv

‘However, morale amongst Russian troops is low and is likely to get even lower because of lack of equipment, lack of cold weather gear, lack of food, lack of true leadership. And Ukrainian morale is holding up despite the real pressures that the Ukrainians are under.

‘It’s it’s real attritional battle and on the frontlines at the moment and will remain so until we see how the next sort of late spring early summer offensive start. This is where the this is where the operational level battle is critical.’

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