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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the alleged kidnap of Melitopol’s mayor by Russian troops, which sparked local protests, is an ‘attempt to bring the city to its knees’.
President Zelensky called on Russian forces to heed the calls of residents in the occupied city of Melitopol who protested to demand that Ivan Fedorov be freed.
Ukrainian officials and Zelensky claimed on Friday that 10 Russian soldiers had kidnapped Ivan Fedorov from the city’s crisis centre while he had a bag over his head.
CCTV footage, posted on Telegram by the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, appears to show a group of men escorting Mr Fedorov out of a building and across a square.
Zelensky, who spoke earlier Saturday with the leaders of Germany and France, described the alleged detention of Fedorov as an attempt ‘to bring the city to its knees’.
Shocking video footage purports to show Melitopol’s mayor Ivan Fedorov being kidnapped by Russian troops after he ‘refused to co-operate with the enemy’
He also said Ukraine expects ‘the leaders of the world to show how they can influence the liberation (of) a man who personifies Ukrainians who do not give up’.
Following the alleged kidnapping, Ukrainian officials said 2,000 people took to the streets of Melitopol to protest.
Video footage, shared by officials, appeared to show crowds of defiant residents carrying Ukrainian flags as they gathered near an occupied administration building.
Ukraine’s parliament claimed Mr Fedorov was kidnapped by 10 armed men, who placed a plastic bag over his head. Russia has not commented on the fate of Mr Fedorov.
The clip, which has been shared widely by Ukrainian media, is believed to have been filmed in Melitopol’s Victory Square in southeastern Ukraine.
President Zelensky on Friday described Mr Fedorov’s alleged abduction as a ‘crime’ against ‘democracy’ as he said the acts of Russian invaders would be treated as ‘terrorism’.
‘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.
Ukrainian officials claimed that Melitopol’s mayor had been kidnapped after he ‘refused to co-operate with the enemy’.
Zelensky also accused Vladimir Putin’s troops of ‘moving to a new stage of terror’ due to a lack of support for the invasion in Ukraine.
CCTV footage, posted on Telegram by the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, appears to show a group of men escorting Mr Fedorov out of a building and across a square
President Zelensky on Friday described Mr Fedorov’s (pictured) alleged abduction as a ‘crime’ against ‘democracy’ as he said the acts of Russian invaders would be treated as ‘terrorism’
Video footage, shared by officials, appeared to show crowds of defiant residents gathering near an occupied administration building to protest the alleged kidnapping of Mr Fedorov
‘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 added.
Zelensky hailed Mr Fedorov as a mayor who ‘bravely defends Ukraine’ and his community as he said the resistance of Ukrainians would not be changed by ‘putting pressure on mayors or kidnapping mayors’.
The prosecutor’s office of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a Moscow-backed rebel region in eastern Ukraine, said on its website there was a criminal case against Mr Fedorov.
The office accused him of ‘terrorist activities’ and of financing the nationalist militia Right Sector to ‘commit terrorist crimes against Donbass civilians’.
Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs described the alleged abduction as a war crime, adding: ‘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.’
Russian forces captured Melitopol, which has a population of 150,000, on February 26.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Zelensky accused Russia of refusing to allow evacuees to escape the city of Mariupol, which has been cut off from food, water and electricity, and defiantly insisted vital supplies would be delivered there tomorrow despite it being surrounded by Russian troops.
The Kremlin-owned Tass news agency painted a damning picture for those stuck in the city after quoting Russian Colonel Mikhail Mizintsev as saying all bridge into the city were destroyed and roads had been laid with mines.
‘Russian troops have not let our aid into the city and continue to torture our people… tomorrow [Saturday] we will try again, try again to send food, water and medicine’ Zelensky said.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, the crisis in Mariupol deepened yet further last night as the death toll passed 1,500. Pictured: The aftermath of Russian artillery shelling on a residential area in Mariupol where a rocket hit a house
An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian’s army tank fires in Mariupol, Ukraine today
In hellish scenes not witnessed on the continent since the Second World War, residents have resorted to fighting one another for food and bodies are buried in mass graves as more than 1,500 people have now died in Mariupol.
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Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted: ‘Besieged Mariupol is now the worst humanitarian catastrophe on the planet. 1,582 dead civilians in 12 days, even buried in mass graves. Unable to defeat the Ukrainian army, Putin bombs the unarmed, blocks humanitarian aid. We need planes to stop Russian war crimes!’
A total of 7,144 people escaped four Ukrainian cities on Friday using humanitarian corridors, President Zelensky said in a televised address, a sharply lower number than managed to leave in each of the two previous days.
It comes as Putin struck areas in central and western Ukraine, some hundreds of miles from the capital Kyiv and huge explosions illuminated the night sky in Dnipro and Lutsk as residents experienced Russian artillery attacks for the first time.
In Ivano-Frankivsk, a triple strike hit at first light, said to be targeting an airfield on the edge of the city. Indiscriminate shelling at 4am UK time yesterday left tower blocks and a factory ablaze in Dnipro, killing a security guard.
Meanwhile, the 40-mile convoy of tanks, troops and artillery that had been bearing down on Kyiv in recent days is understood to have moved into strategic firing positions ahead of an all-out assault on the capital.
Fears have been mounting that Moscow could attempt a repeat at the barbaric bombing used on besieged cities such as Mariupol, with Russian troops now just nine miles from the city.
Satellite images showed howitzer weaponry and suspected rocket launchers being readied, prompting remaining Kyiv residents to take up arms and erect barricades. Mayor Vitali Klitschko warned Russia the city was a fortress.
It comes as military experts say they are baffled by the ineptitude of the tactics displayed by Russia’s armies after drone footage yesterday showed a column of tanks getting picked off one-by-one in an ambush carried out by Ukraine’s forces.
Analysts have said Russian tank commanders allowed the Ukrainians to ambush their unit by driving down the middle of a main road leading into Kyiv – and straight into a death trap. By multiple counts, President Vladimir Putin’s forces have lost more tanks than are operational in the entire German army.
The failure to establish control of Kyiv could force Putin to negotiate a settlement sooner than expected.
Yesterday, he said there had been ‘positive changes’ from the talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials as he welcomed Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to Moscow.
Some Russian units are now just nine miles from Kyiv.
There are fears they will attempt to repeat the barbaric tactics used on other cities including Mariupol, which is surrounded – with those inside suffering starvation and dehydration. Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital there this week.