A Ukrainian mayor who was abducted by Russian forces has recently been released; still, the kidnapping of Mayor Ivan Fedorov marks a disturbing pattern in the tactics of the advancing Russian military.
The news that Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov was no longer in Russian hands was announced by Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.
“Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov has been released from Russian captivity,” he wrote in a Telegram post.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, confirmed on Facebook that Zelenskyy had spoken with Fedorov. Ukraine Defense Ministry posted a video of the president talking to the mayor via cellphone.
“We do not abandon ours,” Zelenskyy said, the ministry said in a tweet.
In an earlier post, he said a “special operation aiming to free the mayor of Melitopol” had just been successfully completed.
Fedorov was taken March 11 while at a crisis center in Melitopol and was led out the building with a plastic bag over his head, the Ukrainian parliament said.
He was accused by Moscow of terrorism. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs classified the kidnapping of Fedorov and civilians as a war crime.
In a social media post at the time, the Ukrainian parliament said 10 Russian troops had taken Fedorov and that “he refused to cooperate with the enemy.”
Fedorov’s abduction was part of a distressing pattern of Russian troops targeting Ukrainian city leaders. Putin’s forces have abducted three Ukrainian mayors since its invasion on Feb.24.
On Wednesday, the Mayor of Skadovsk, Oleksandr Yakovlyev, and his deputy Yurii Palyukh were taken by Russian troops, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, said.
He said Moscow continues “to abduct democratically elected local leaders in Ukraine” while sharing a selfie image of Yakovlyev at a beach. The post came just before Zelenskyy addressed Congress for much-needed aid to fend off Moscow.
Yakovlev later went on Facebook Live and said he had been released. Details about the alleged abduction or whether it was filmed were not immediately available.
On Sunday, the Mayor of Dniprorudne, Matveev Sergeevich, was also abducted by Russian troops, according to officials.
“Getting zero local support, invaders turn to terror,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter of that abduction. “I call on all states & international organizations to stop Russian terror against Ukraine and democracy.”