Kyiv’s mayor: Extraordinary, in extraordinarily tough times
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov speaks during a video conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister, Francois Hollande, in Berlin, March 5, 2014.Reuters
“I think Ukraine is a very, very special place that has very special circumstances.”
This was the response by Viktor Pshonka, mayor of Kyiv, when he was asked to identify all the extraordinary ways in which this exceptional place was able to weather the extraordinary financial storm that has engulfed Ukraine during the past month.
Pshonka had just returned from a week-long visit to Kyiv, and he had just finished his daily news briefing when a reporter asked him to identify the most extraordinary things that had unfolded during his time there. Pshonka’s answer has a ring of authenticity, given the fact that while the Ukrainian prime minister had just been discussing the extraordinary efforts taken by the Ukrainian government to shore up its financial base, Pshonka was recalling another of the extraordinary things that had happened in Kyiv: that more than 100 million Ukrainians had visited the city during the week he was there, for the very first time in nearly half a century.
“The world knows that there are a lot of people with business connections in Ukraine, and they are spending a lot of money in the country,” Pshonka said. “We are proud of it. It’s an expression of the Ukrainian spirit, and we’re pleased to see that our citizens from all over the world have come to visit.”
Pshonka was in Kyiv to discuss with the prime minister, Andriy Prokopchuk, a new project that is going to be launched in June that he said he hoped will become part of the Kyiv landscape, because Kyiv’s city dwellers want to see it.
“I think that we really have something extraordinary, and it’s to be a place of leisure, culture and entertainment,” Pshonka said. “And of course it’s to be a cultural center for the development of Ukraine.”
The city of Kyiv had a population of nearly 1.3 million when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and had to contend with an acute shortage of water, electricity,