Update: The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol has been freed from Russian forces in a "special operation," according to officials. Ivan Fedorov was spotted with a bag over his head in the company of heavily armed Russian soldiers in the city on March 11, per ABC News. "The Russian military abducted him … trying to persuade him to collaborate. But our man withstood. He did not give up. Just as we all endure," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday. A video shows him speaking by phone with Fedorov, who promises to be ready for orders after a short recovery. Officials reported the abduction of a third mayor, Oleksandr Yakovlyev of Skadovsk, on Wednesday, per Fox News, though he's reportedly been released. Our original story from Sunday follows:
Russian forces have kidnapped a second mayor, Ukraine said Sunday. The nation's foreign minister tweeted that Yevhen Matveyev, the mayor of the southern city of Dniprorudne, had been taken by Russian troops. The mayor of Melitopol was kidnapped earlier. "Today, Russian war criminals abducted another democratically elected Ukrainian mayor," Dmytro Kuleba posted, the BBC reports. "Getting zero local support, invaders turn to terror." A British lawmaker said Russia has launched a "campaign of civilian abductions" to pressure politicians to support its invasion, per the Washington Post.
The person Russia declared the new mayor of Melitopol delivered a warning to residents in her first public appearance, telling them not to take "extremist actions." Galina Danilchenko said she plans to restore "basic mechanisms under the new reality." By contrast, the elected mayor, Ivan Fedorov, said last week, "We are not cooperating with the Russians in any way," per the BBC. President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Fedorov be freed, and asked Israel, Germany, and France to exert pressure on Russia. On Saturday night, Zelensky praised Ukrainians who were not cooperating with the Russians in the Kherson region. Those who do, he said in an apparent reference to Danilchenko, will face consequences. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)