Thousands of Ukrainians have protested in the streets of the occupied city of Melitopol after Russian troops were accused of kidnapping its mayor.
Ukraine’s parliament claims that Ivan Fedorov has been kidnapped by armed men acting on behalf of the Kremlin.
At least 2,000 people have taken to the streets of the city to protest against his alleged abduction.
The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kirill Timoshenko, shared a video on the social media site Telegram that appears to show the moment Mr Fedorov was captured and escorted across a square in the city centre.
Melitopol, about 120 miles (190km) west of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, has a population of 150,000 and fell under Russian control on 26 February.
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The Ukrainian MP Mariia Ionova posted on Twitter: “Kidnapped Melitopol city mayor Ivan Fedorov is being forced to break his oath of allegiance to Ukrainian people and join invaders’ side or resign.”
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In an earlier tweet she said Mr Fedorov was “staying in the besieged city to secure the essential needs of the citizens”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the abduction was equivalent to so-called Islamic State terrorists.
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Melitopol residents took the streets after the city’s mayor Ivan Fedorov was allegedly kidnapped by Russian forces.
“They have transitioned into a new stage of terror, in which they try to physically liquidate representatives of Ukraine’s lawful local authorities,” Mr Zelenskyy said in a video address.
The detention of Mr Fedorov was an attempt to “bring the city to its knees”, he added.
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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”, he said.
Fedorov faces ‘false’ terrorism allegations
The prosecutor’s office of the Luhansk People’s Republic – a Russian-backed rebel region in eastern Ukraine – claims there is a criminal case against the Melitopol mayor for alleged terrorist activities.
Mr Fedorov is also accused of financing nationalist militia Right Sector to “commit terrorist crimes against civilians” in the Donbas region.
Officials said they were searching for Mr Fedorov and have asked anyone with information about his whereabouts to get in contact.
Image: Ivan Fedorov has been accused of terrorist activities by separatists in Luhansk
But Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the terrorism allegations against Mr Fedorov were “false” and that Russian forces had violated international law.
It said: “The abduction of the mayor of Melitopol is classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol, which prohibit the taking of civilian hostages during the war.”
Image: President Zelenskyy has urged Ukrainians to keep fighting
President Zelenskyy has urged Ukrainians to keep fighting, saying it was “impossible to say how many days we will still need to free our land, but it is possible to say that we will do it.”
He earlier warned millions of people will die if the world does not act now to stop the bombing – telling Sky News’ Alex Crawford how Mr Putin was going “directly to hell”.
Source : Sky News