Melitopol is a city in southern Ukraine with about 150,000 residents. Last Friday, Russian forces kidnapped the city’s mayor, Ivan Fedorov, in an apparent attempt to force him to collaborate. Video showed a man believed to be Fedorov being dragged out of a city building by Russian soldiers with a hood over his head.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, has been kidnapped by a group of 10 armed men from Russian forces.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 12, 2022
The residents of Melitopol were not happy and protested in the face of Russian troops to demand Fedorov be released. They were chanting “Where’s our mayor?””
“Local residents, despite kidnappings and shooting at activists, continue to go to rallies. They demand the return of the kidnapped mayor Ivan Fedorov.”#RussiaUkraineWar pic.twitter.com/S4gEkWZW6Z
— Chris Alemany 🇺🇦 🇨🇦 🇪🇸 🌹 🍉 🌲 (@chrisalecanada) March 15, 2022
President Zelensky expressed his gratitude to the protesters.
Zelensky also claimed that Fedorov was still alive but was being tortured by the Russians.
Zelensky says Ivan Fyodorov, the mayor of Melitopol, is alive, but being tortured in Russian captivity.
— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 12, 2022
Meanwhile, Russia installed a new mayor in the city and put her on TV to demand people not join the “extremist” protests in the streets. She told them to “adjust to the new reality.”
VIDEO: A new interim Mayor “APPOINTED” in Melitopol.
Galina Danilchenko, City Council deputy of the "Opposition Bloc", urged "to adjust to the new reality", not to destabilize the situation and not to participate in extremist activities.
The previous Mayor was detained. pic.twitter.com/syVz6cud9C
— WAR IN UKRAINE 2022 (@WARUKRAINE2022) March 12, 2022
Danilchenko also announced that Russian TV would now be broadcast in Melitopol so that people would have “reliable information.”
new designated pro Russian mayor of Melitopol Galina Danilchenko officially announced that Russian Television are now allowed to start broadcasting in the city, since residents "feel a sharp deficit of reliable information" according to her. pic.twitter.com/HTWCr39J2R
— Russia Ukraine Conflict (@Russiaconflict) March 13, 2022
And Russia sent troops through the streets telling people protests were no longer allowed. Notice the response of the guy filming this.
In Melitopol, where the mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was kidnapped on Friday after refusing to cooperate with the "occupiers", the Russians announce the ban on demonstrations. "F*ck you!" retorts this Ukrainian #Melitopol #Ukraine #RussianArmy #Putin pic.twitter.com/CGUYvAo6EA
— Hashtag Elyoum (@Hashtagelyoum) March 13, 2022
But yesterday Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba announced that Mayor Fedorov had been freed thanks to a “special operation.”
Ukraine conducted a “special operation” and rescued #Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov from captivity in the occupied #Luhansk! Melitopol is Ukraine! Thank you all who supported the #FreeIvanFedorov hashtag! #StandWithUkraine pic.twitter.com/UQHpZPngNT
— olexander scherba🇺🇦 (@olex_scherba) March 16, 2022
Also yesterday, Scherba released video of President Zelensky speaking with Fedorov after his release. Both are speaking in Ukrainian but someone provided an unofficial transcript in English. “Thank you so much for not leaving me,” Fedorov said. “We don’t leave our people,” Zelensky replied.
Fedorov said he would need a day or two to recover but Zelensky suggested he could only spare him for a day. “You’re a man, a hero, I’m very happy you’re with us,” Zelensky said. Even without the translation, you get the sense of the conversation from Zelensky’s face and Fedorov’s voice.
— Dmitri (@mdmitri91) March 16, 2022
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only case in which Russia has kidnaped Ukrainian elected officials.
Russian forces allegedly kidnapped another mayor in an occupied city in the region. Dniprorudne Mayor Yevgeny Matveyev was kidnapped on Sunday, according to Oleksandr Starukh, head of the regional military administration.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials claimed a third southern Ukrainian mayor — Oleksandr Yakovlyev of Skadovsk — and his deputy Yurii Palyukh were “abducted” by Russian forces.
“Russian invaders continue to abduct democratically elected local leaders in Ukraine,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, said on Twitter. “States & international organizations must demand Russia to immediately release all abducted Ukrainian officials!”
Finally, while we’re on the topic of Russian kidnapping, let’s not forget about WNBA star Brittney Griner who was arrested at an airport last month for allegedly having hash oil in her luggage. Today we learned that Griner’s detention had been extended.
Russian media reported that the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner was extended until May 19, a development that could see the two-time Olympic champion being held for at least three months before her case is resolved…
The court approved prosecutors’ request to extend her pre-trial detention in order to continue investigating her case. Tom Firestone, a former U.S. Justice Department legal resident advisor to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said that such delays are standard in Russia and that she may be held without trial for up to a year, or up to 18 months in extraordinary circumstances.
What’s happening so far may be standard operating procedure in Russia, but there’s obvious concern that in the current climate Griner’s case could become politicized in a way that could make her situation worse.
“Everyone’s getting the strategy of say less and push more privately behind the scenes,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told the AP on Wednesday. “It’s the strategy you get from the State Department and administration. It’s our No. 1 priority in talking with her agent and strategists.”
So there’s a fine line to walk here but Hillary Clinton has already weighed in on this so not everyone is on board with saying less at this point.
Free Brittney. https://t.co/wqQrye2T3J
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 16, 2022