Status: 07/17/2022 10:49 a.m
The Russians shelled Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine almost every day. The fact that the residents do not lose their courage is also due to their governor Kim: With clever messages he spreads optimism.
Vitaliy Kim is a slim man with a round face and a region in a state of emergency. For the interview in Mykolaiv, the governor appeared in the green T-shirt that is currently the norm for Ukrainian politicians. The city is bombarded with rockets almost every day. Most recently on Friday morning, according to preliminary information, four people were injured. The administration building in front of which Kim receives journalists was hit at the end of March. To this day, there is a huge hole in the nine-story building. “People died here,” says Kim. That’s why the journalists shouldn’t film him in front of the building.
Anyone who searches for the 41-year-old on the streets of Mykolaiv often sees beaming faces. They say he’s a great governor. He fulfills his role and gives hope to the people. Like many others, he communicates primarily via social media such as Telegram. More than 700,000 people have subscribed to his channel. With the war, Kim became a superstar of Ukrainian politics. The reason for this is evident: his optimistic charisma and his sense of humour.
In colorful socks at the desk
“Jokes are strategic,” Kim tells the British “Guardian”. He’s trying to show that the Russian army is made up of normal people who make mistakes. When Mykolaiv threatened to fall into Russian hands in the first weeks of the war, panic spread among the population. Kim then posted a photo of himself leaning back in his desk chair, cell phone to his ear, feet in brightly colored socks propped on the heavy wooden table.
The image quickly spread across the internet. Some then mount the relaxed governor with the colorful socks at Vladimir Putin’s oversized table. Joking about the aggressors helps against fear. And even now that the Russians are shelling Mykolayiv more and more, Kim finds an optimistic explanation: The Russians are desperate, he says. “They fail at the front. They suffer enormous losses.”
Shaded in white: advance of the Russian army. Shaded in green: Russian-backed separatist areas. Crimea: annexed by Russia.
“Everything depends on the weapons”
And that’s why Mykolayiv can withstand the constant shelling of the Russians indefinitely, according to Kim. “That depends on the weapons we have available” – a clear reference to western arms supplies. According to the military experts in Kyiv, they are indispensable for a counter-offensive in the region that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently brought into play.
The press staff of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also published a picture of Kim: Here he receives an award from Zelenskyy.
If you talk to the soldiers in the region, the optimism in this regard seems to be rather low. The losses are high and without modern weapons from the West a counter-offensive is practically impossible. Governor Kim does not want to reveal anything about the situation at the front. “But we will liberate the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions as soon as the opportunity arises,” he says.
Until then, Mykolaiv is in a state of emergency. There are far fewer people on the streets compared to before. Long queues only form when humanitarian aid is being distributed somewhere. But Governor Kim can already dream of a time after the war: he wants to turn Mykolayiv into a tourist town, he says.