Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Russians try to subdue Ukrainian towns by kidnapping mayors

Not long after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, soldiers broke down the office door of Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov.
They put a bag over his head, bundled him into a car and drove him around the southern city for hours, threatening to kill him.
Fedorov, 34, is one of over 50 local leaders who have been held in Russian captivity since the war began on Feb. 24 in an attempt to subdue cities and towns coming under Moscow’s control.
Like many others, he said he was pressured to collaborate with the invaders.
“The bullying and threats did not stop for a minute. They tried to force me to continue leading the city under the Russian flag, but I refused,” Fedorov told The Associated Press by phone last month in Kyiv.
“They didn’t beat me, but day and night, wild screams from the next cell would tell me what was waiting for me.”
As Russians seized parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, civilian administrators and others, including nuclear power plant workers, say they have been abducted, threatened or beaten to force their cooperation — something that legal and human rights experts say may constitute a war crime.
Ukrainian and Western historians say the tactic is used when invading forces are unable to subjugate the population.
This year, as Russian forces sought to tighten their hold on Melitopol, hundreds of residents took to the streets to demand Fedorov’s release.
After six days in detention and an intervention from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he was exchanged for nine Russian prisoners of war and expelled from the occupied city.
A pro-Kremlin figure was installed.
“The Russians cannot govern the captured cities. They have neither the personnel nor the experience,” Fedorov said. tThey want to force public officials to work for them because they realise that someone has to “clean the streets and fix up the destroyed houses.”
The Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC), a group of local leaders from across Ukraine, said that of the more than 50 abducted officials, including 34 mayors, at least 10 remain captive.
Russian officials haven’t commented on the allegations. Moscow-backed authorities in eastern Ukraine even launched a criminal investigation into Fedorov on charges of involvement in terrorist activities.

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