Russian troops have abducted the mayor of the captured city of Melitopol, Ukrainian authorities said Friday, accusing Moscow of committing a war crime.
A video clip shared by Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, showed a person said to be Ivan Fedorov being whisked away by a group of armed soldiers.
According to Ukraine’s parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, the Russian forces put a plastic bag on Fedorov’s head when they abducted him.
“He refused to cooperate with the enemy,” it wrote on Twitter. “The Ukrainian flag stood in the mayor’s office.”
The parliament said the mayor was seized when he was at the city’s crisis center dealing with supply issues.
In a video message late Friday, Zelensky confirmed the abduction, calling Fedorov “a mayor who bravely defends Ukraine and the members of his community.”
In this today's video from the occupied #Melitopol city in #Zaporizhzhya province you can see how in the middle of the day the #Russian soliders kidnap Ivan Fedorov, a mayor of the city. Video shared by the Ukraine presidential office (Kyrylo Tymoshenko). [Thread⬇️] pic.twitter.com/ei5cykbSYP
— Victor Kovalenko (@MrKovalenko) March 11, 2022
“This is obviously a sign of weakness of the invaders… They have moved to a new stage of terror in which they are trying to physically eliminate representatives of legitimate local Ukrainian authorities,” he said.
“The capture of the mayor of Melitopol is therefore a crime, not only against a particular person, against a particular community, and not only against Ukraine. It is a crime against democracy itself… The acts of the Russian invaders will be regarded like those of Islamic State terrorists,” he said.
Following the incident, the Ukrainian foreign ministry issued a statement castigating Russia over “gross violations of norms and principles of international law, including international humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as other human rights violations by the Russian military.”
“Among such gross violations was the abduction of Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov,” the ministry said.
— Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (@ua_parliament) March 11, 2022
According to the ministry, Fedorov was being held under allegations of “terrorism.”
“The abduction of the mayor of Melitopol is classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol that prohibit the taking of civilian hostages during the war,” the statement added
“We call on the international community to respond immediately to the abduction of Ivan Fedorov and other civilians, and to increase pressure on Russia to end its barbaric war against the Ukrainian people.”
The prosecutor’s office of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a Moscow-backed rebel region in eastern Ukraine, said on its website that there was a criminal case against Fedorov. The prosecutor’s office accused Federov of “terrorist activities” and of financing the nationalist militia Right Sector to “commit terrorist crimes against Donbass civilians.”
The office said it was looking for Fedorov and called for anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact them.
According to the Ukrainian parliament, another regional official, the deputy head of the regional council of Zaporizhzhia — 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Melitopol — was abducted and then released a few days ago.
Before the Russian invasion, Melitopol had just over 150,000 inhabitants.