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Zelensky calls on world leaders to demand release of abducted Melitopol mayor

Ukrainian leader says Russia sending additional soldiers to Ukraine after suffering ‘worst losses in decades’; urges Moscow to uphold humanitarian ceasefire in Mariupol

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook, on March 12, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook, on March 12, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Saturday on the leaders of France and Germany to help secure the release of the mayor of Melitopol who Kyiv says was abducted by invading Russian forces.

“During the night and today, we are talking to our partners about the situation with our mayor. Our demand is clear: he must be released immediately… I have already phoned [German] Chancellor Olaf Scholz. I have spoken to [French] President Emmanuel Macron… I will speak to all the necessary people to get our people released,” Zelensky said in a video released by the Ukrainian presidency.

“We appeal to all world leaders who speak to Moscow – France, Germany, Israel, and others,” he said.

“We expect world leaders to show us how they can influence the situation,” Zelensky added.

According to the Ukrainian president and parliament, mayor Ivan Fedorov was abducted on Friday by Russian soldiers occupying Melitopol, a town in southern Ukraine halfway between Mariupol and Kherson, because he “refused to cooperate with the enemy.”

According to the Ukrainian parliament, the mayor was arrested while at the city’s crisis center tackling supply issues.

Zelensky said 2,000 Ukrainians demonstrated in Melitopol on Saturday against the Russian invasion and to demand the release of their mayor.

“Do you hear, Moscow? If 2,000 people demonstrate in Melitopol against the occupation, how many are there in Moscow against the war?” he said in his video.

Before the Russian invasion began on February 24, Melitopol had a population of just over 150,000.

In the video statement, Zelensky said Russia was sending additional troops due to “great losses” in its war on Ukraine

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov. (Courtesy)

“The Russian troops are suffering great losses. We could even now talk about the greatest blow to the Russian troops in tens of years,” he said.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, said Saturday that Russian Maj. Gen. Andrei Kolesnikov was killed in action during the fighting over Mariupol. He would be the third Russian general to die in the war, according to Ukrainian officials.

Kolesnikov’s death wasn’t confirmed by the Russian military, which has kept a tight lid on information about its losses. Previously, unofficial Russian sources confirmed the death of one Russian general.

The death of Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division, was confirmed by his colleague and the officers’ association in southern Russia. The death of another general, Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov, wasn’t confirmed by any Russian sources.

Zelensky urged Russia to uphold an agreed ceasefire to allow evacuations to proceed from the besieged port city of Mariupol, after blaming Moscow for the failure of previous attempts.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron greets Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, on March 10, 2022, prior to the EU leaders summit to discuss the fallout of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. (Ludovic Marin/AFP)

Zelensky’s comments came after earlier Saturday, the Elysee confirmed that Macron and Scholz held new talks with Putin about the war in Ukraine.

The three leaders had already spoken by telephone on Thursday when both Macron and Scholz had “demanded an immediate ceasefire by Russia.”

Since meeting Putin in the Kremlin on February 7, Macron has had nine phone calls with the Russian leader, his office said.

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