An interview with Vitaliy Kim, Mykolaiv’s governor and social media star

Mykolaiv’s governor Vitaliy Kim (Credit: Oleksii Platonov)

The governor of the Mykolaiv region, Vitaliy Kim, is a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. Since 24 February, his small region has been fighting “the world's second largest army”. “Good evening! We are from Ukraine” is the opening catch-phrase of his videos and has turned him into a social media star. The slogan has since been featured in a techno song used in many of the anti-Russian videos posted on TikTok.

More recently, a photo of Kim, feet up on his desk, became a meme to illustrate the calm and hard work of Ukrainians in the face of the Russian aggression. On 29 March, he survived the bombing of the regional administration, which killed about 30 people. Our correspondent Oleksii Platonov met this charismatic governor.

What is the current situation in Mykolaiv?

Vitaliy Kim: The war continues to rage on the borders of Mykolaiv, at a radius of about 20 kilometres. Thankfully, we have recovered part of the territories in the direction of Kherson and the Russian artillery that used to shell continuously, no longer reaches our city. However, rocket attacks are more frequent.

Are you getting the necessary weapons promised by Western partners?

That information is confidential. What I can say is that we continue to receive weapons and they’re crucial. Thanks to supplies, we are making considerable progress.

Do you have any information about Ukrainian soldiers killed in combat?

Of course, but that is also confidential. I can, however, comment on the civilian population. Since the beginning of the war, over 1000 people have been wounded in Mykolaiv. 338 were killed, including 10 children.

What is your main objective?

First, to win the war. After that, we will entirely rebuild what the Russians destroyed in the region.

What do you think the Russians are planning?

The Russians expected to be greeted with flowers, but they were wrong. They had misleading information and miscalculated. Today, the occupied territories do not recognise the Russian government and do not want to cooperate with it.

As for Mykolaiv, I think that Russian troops are not ready to advance towards the city and attack the region because the majority of their forces are concentrated in the Donbas. But the actions of the occupiers aren’t always logical.

A photo of Kim, feet up on his desk, became a meme to illustrate the calm and hard work of Ukrainians in the face of the Russian aggression.

What is happening in the occupied town of Snigurivka, east of Mykolaiv?

Snigurivka is currently occupied, but we continue to support citizens, pay pensions and provide social assistance. As far as military action is concerned, we are on the defensive. I can't tell you more about the strategy. But as you can also see, according to the official data, we are gaining ground towards Kherson.

How is the city's economy? How is the humanitarian aid being managed?

Right now, the city is functioning almost like before: shops, pharmacies and markets are open. As for the displaced, we are providing them with all the humanitarian aid possible. We have made stocks in case of unexpected developments, but for the time being, our economy is alive and we are helping all those in need.

The Mykolaiv region feeds Ukraine. How did the harvest go?

The harvest has already started and 2 to 2.2 million tonnes of grain should be produced this year. The amount is slightly lower than last year’s because of the weather. Farmers risk their lives under mines and shells, but continue their work. That being said, the low buying price imposed by big companies afraid to work in these conditions causes a lot of trouble for the farmers. The blocking of the Black Sea ports also makes logistics extremely complicated and costly. We are still looking for a solution to sell the crop at acceptable prices.

What message would you like to convey?

This war is not a confrontation between two armies. The Russians are trying to destroy the Ukrainian people and their symbols. I therefore wish our citizens to defeat the enemy as soon as possible.

Since 24 February, Ukraine has been defending the whole of Europe against a country that wants to take over the Baltic States and part of Europe in order to restore the Soviet Empire borders. Our Western partners must not get used to watching war on television. This is a real threat and we need help to defeat this evil on Ukrainian territory. We are waiting for the liberation of the whole of Ukraine, including Kherson, Mariupol, Donetsk and Crimea!