Anger in Melitopol After Russia Kidnaps Ukrainian Mayor
A local pro-Russian politician was installed by Russia as the new “acting mayor."
Ivan Fyodorov, the mayor of Melitopol, Ukraine, was kidnapped by Russian soldiers on Friday night after refusing to cooperate with the invading Russian army, according to the New York Times.
Russia’s state-run TASS news agency indicated on Saturday that the prosecutor’s office in Luhansk, the capital of the internationally unrecognized “Luhansk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, would press terrorism charges against Fyodorov for his role in an alleged fundraising effort for the “Right Sector” far-right militia.
Fyodorov’s arrest led to a wave of protests in Melitopol, one of the largest Ukrainian cities to be captured by the Russian military during the ongoing war between the two countries. Hundreds of Melitopol residents marched through the city’s central area, chanting “Free the mayor” and “Russian soldiers are fascist occupiers” and waving Ukrainian flags, although the demonstration was later dispersed by Russian troops.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who has been widely lauded in the West for his leadership during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, noted in his daily video address that Fyodorov’s arrest demonstrated the falsehood of Russia’s claim that Ukrainians in the country’s east would be happy to be liberated from an oppressive “neo-Nazi” government in Kyiv. While Russian media outlets have played up incidents of hatred against ethnic Russians within Ukraine, Fyodorov is an ethnic Russian.
“For years, they have been lying to themselves that people in Ukraine were supposedly waiting for Russia to come,” Zelensky said. “They did not find collaborators who would hand over the city and the power to the invaders.”
However, later in the day on Sunday, Galina Danilchenko, a local pro-Russian politician, was installed as the new “acting mayor,” according to a video statement in which she called for Ukrainians within Melitopol not to resist the presence of Russian troops.
"Despite all our efforts, there are still people in the city who are trying to destabilize the situation, who are calling on you to take extremist actions," Danilchenko said. "I ask you to be prudent … [and] not to succumb to these provocations."
Melitopol, a city of roughly 150,000 people within Ukraine’s eastern Zaporizhzhia province, was allegedly captured by Russian troops invading from the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula in the first days of the war. Prior to his kidnapping, Fyodorov had remained in office, posting daily video updates on conditions within the city and urging residents to refuse to cooperate with the invading army.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.