Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov was exchanged for nine captured Russian soldiers after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the kidnapping a ‘crime against democracy’
A kidnapped Ukrainian mayor has been released from Russian custody after an apparent prisoner swap.
The mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, was exchanged for the nine captured Russian soldiers, reports said.
Mr. Fedorov, 33, was grabbed by Kremlin troops on March 11 after refusing to cooperate following Melitopol’s arrest.
Ukraine’s Ukrayinska Pravda newspaper reported that the mayor spoke with President Volodymyr Zelensky after a successful prisoner exchange.
Deputy Office of the President of Ukraine Kyrylo Tymoshenko wrote on Telegram: “A special operation to release Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov has just been successfully carried out.
“We just spoke to the President and the head of the Office.”
The footage shows Mr Zelensky talking to Mr. Fedorov on the phone, telling him: “I’m glad we brought you back … nice to hear your voice.”
The mayor told the President that he hopes to return to work in his city soon.
In a speech on Friday, March 11, Mr. Zelensky described his colleague as “a courageous mayor defending Ukraine and members of his community”.
Later, a Russian separatist prosecutor in Luhansk announced that Fedorov was being investigated for terrorism charges.
The president previously called the kidnapping a “crime against democracy” and said that Russia’s acts would be considered “terrorism”.
UKRAINE PRESIDENCY / AFP via Getty)
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“Therefore, the arrest of the mayor of Melitopol is a crime, not just against a specific person, against a particular community, and not just against Ukraine,” he said.
“It is a crime against democracy itself… The actions of the Russian aggressors will be seen as acts of Islamic State terrorism.”
He added: “They did not find collaborators who would hand over the city and power to the invaders.
“So they have moved to a new stage of terrorism when they are trying to physically remove representatives of the legitimate local government of Ukraine.
“The whole country sees that Melitopol does not surrender to the invaders, and this cannot be changed by putting pressure on the mayor or kidnapping the mayor.”
Chilling footage emerged after the abduction emerged showing the mayor being abducted by Russian forces.
A group of men were seen escorting the blindfolded Mr. Fedorov out of a building and across the square in a CCTV clip shared on Telegram by Ukraine’s deputy presidential office.
The footage – which has been widely shared by media in Ukraine – is said to have been taken in the city’s Victory Square.
Ukraine’s parliament announced the mayor was abducted by a group of 10 armed men who covered their heads with a plastic bag, Daily mail report.
“The kidnapping of the mayor of Melitopol is classified as a war crime under the Geneva Convention and the Additional Protocol, which prohibits taking civilian hostages during war,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/kidnapped-mayor-released-russian-captivity-26487586 Kidnapped mayor released from custody in Russia after 'prisoner swap' - World News