Russia-Ukraine war: Kidnapped Melitopol mayor sent to Luhansk - report

Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, was kidnapped last week. Terrorism charges were levied against him by the Russian-backed breakaway in Luhansk.

 A serviceman of pro-Russian militia walks nest to a military convoy of armed forces of the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) on a road in the Luhansk region, Ukraine February 27, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)
A serviceman of pro-Russian militia walks nest to a military convoy of armed forces of the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) on a road in the Luhansk region, Ukraine February 27, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, was reportedly taken to Russian-controlled Luhansk in eastern Ukraine after being kidnapped last week by Russian forces, Ukrainian media reported late Monday night, citing the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration (RMA).

Fedorov was reportedly abducted by Russian forces on Friday. The claims were later supported by videos shared by CNN, which stated that it had verified their authenticity, of Russian soldiers outside a municipal building in Melitopol.

Reports of the mayor being taken to Luhansk follow the prosecutor's office in the Russian-backed breakaway state of the Luhansk People's Republic opening a criminal case against him to charge him with terrorism.

The Luhansk People's Republic is one of two breakaway states in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region under the control of pro-Russia separatists. Only Moscow has recognized their claims of independence.

This also follows reports on Sunday of Russian forces installing a new mayor in the city.

 People protest the abduction of Mayor Ivan Fedorov, outside the Melitopol regional administration building, after he was reportedly taken away by Russian forces, during their ongoing invasion, in Melitopol, Ukraine in this still image obtained from handout video released March 12, 2022.  (credit: Courtesy of Deputy Head for President's Office, Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS) People protest the abduction of Mayor Ivan Fedorov, outside the Melitopol regional administration building, after he was reportedly taken away by Russian forces, during their ongoing invasion, in Melitopol, Ukraine in this still image obtained from handout video released March 12, 2022. (credit: Courtesy of Deputy Head for President's Office, Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

Protests have occurred throughout Melitopol calling for Fedorov's freedom.

On Sunday, Ukraine's Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin said on TV that Ukraine was taking "certain measures" to free Fedorov from Russian captivity, Pravda reported. Further, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed on Twitter that he asked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to "assist in the release of the captive mayor of Melitopol."

Fedorov is not the only mayor of a Ukrainian city in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast to have reportedly been kidnapped by Russian forces.

On Sunday, reports from the Zaporizhzhia Region State Administration said that Russian forces had kidnapped Dniprorudne Mayor Yevgeny Matveyev.

This was corroborated by Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko, who referred to it as a "terrorist tactics to install puppet regimes at [a] local level," as well as by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration spokesperson Ivan Arefiev.

According to this recent statement by the Zaporizhzhia RMA, Matveyev's current status is unknown.

This is a developing story.