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Melitopol mayor: I was kidnapped by Russians as warning to other politicians

By Laura Zornoza

Strasbourg, France, Dec 13 (EFE).- Ivan Fedorov was 25 years old and had just embarked on a career in politics when Russia illegally annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in early 2014.

Eight years later, as the mayor of Melitopol, he was kidnapped in the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in what he says was a warning to other Ukrainian political leaders.

They “kidnapped me to (…) make an example of me,” Fedorov told Efe during an interview in Strasbourg where he was collecting the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on behalf of the Ukrainian people, alongside other civil society leaders.

Born in Melitopol in 1988, Fedorov made headlines when he was arrested in early March by 10 Russian soldiers after his city came under occupation and he refused to cooperate with the invaders.

He was released six days later, but by then a new mayor, Galina Danilchenko, had been installed by the Russians.

“Russia wanted simple things. Russians wanted for me to go with my team to the central square and say to my citizens: ‘I’m sorry, citizens let’s go to Russia’. But it’s impossible! They are crazy! They cannot understand that citizens don’t want (this), the nation doesn’t want (this) and of course mayors, vice-deputies also don’t want (this),” Fedorov said.

The Russian invasion caught Fedorov in his second year as mayor of the city of 150,000 people and “obviously not prepared for war,” he said.

“We tried to analyze the situation (…) and where Russian troops were and how quickly they could get to the border of the Melitopol”.

The mayor told Efe that the first steps were to “organize our staff” and “give a truthful message to our citizens” because nobody knew what was going to happen next, and that way they could make a decision as to what to do next.

Fedorov, who now lives in Zaporizhzhya, two hours north of Melitopol, says he is proud of the residents of his hometown for their resistance and resilience.

“We have much less collaboration, much (fewer) citizens that support the Russians.”

Fedorov thanked the European Parliament for the Sakharov Prize but says that it is not enough, calling for more support from European governments and institutions for “a quick victory because we defend European values.”

“Now the whole European Union is preparing to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, buying gifts, but this is possible only with the brave Ukrainian nation. Our army, our troops, our soldiers, our citizens in occupied territories, our citizens without electricity, without a heating system and other services, our citizens and our nation defend European values,” he stressed.

“And our nation gives safety guarantees to all European countries.”

When asked whether he feels like a symbol of the resistance, he said: “the Ukrainian nation is the symbol of our resistance.” EFE


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