President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered an audit of all Ukrainian air raid shelters on Friday as a rift widened with Kyiv’s mayor after the deaths of three people locked out on the street during a Russian attack.
A nine-year-old girl, her mother and another woman were killed by falling debris after rushing to a Kyiv shelter on Thursday and finding it was shut.
“There can be no excuses for this level of negligence in the city,” Zelenskyy said in an evening video address, adding he had told the strategic industries minister and the interior minister to conduct a “full audit of bomb shelters.”
Police have detained four people in an investigation into the deaths. Three of them may be charged with official negligence, the interior ministry said in a statement on Telegram.
The deaths caused a public outcry and a promise of a harsh response by Zelenskyy which appears aimed at Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko, a former world champion boxer who has clashed with the president before.
Zelenskyy said Kyiv inhabitants had been publishing information about closed shelters and the absence of shelters in some parts of the city.
Klitschko acknowledged at a local committee meeting on Friday that he bore some responsibility but said others were to blame, particularly allies of the president.
He said spending on shelters in Kyiv districts, most of which are led by members of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, had been “extremely unsatisfactory” and underlined the military administration was led by a presidential appointee.
Klitschko called for “common and fair responsibility” and said he may lobby for the dismissal of district heads after a review of spending on the maintenance of shelters.
“Districts of the capital are not separate principalities where you can walk around in white gloves and neglect your duties,” he said, adding that he would not tolerate “sabotage.”
In an earlier spat, Zelenskyy accused Klitschko in November of doing a poor job setting up emergency shelters to help people without power and heat.