'Kidnapped' Ukrainian mayor freed in exchange for nine captured Russian conscripts

The mayor of the besieged Ukrainian city of Melitopol who was allegedly abducted by Kremlin forces has been freed. Ukraine's parliament claimed Ivan Fedorov was kidnapped by armed men who put a plastic bag over his head. Surveillance footage of the apparent moment he was marched across a square in the city centre was shared on social media. He was released on Wednesday in exchange for nine captured Russian conscripts, according to the head of Ukraine's presidential office. Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player 0:32 The moment the mayor 'was captured' Putin's invasion has 'stalled on all fronts' - follow latest updates Russia "got nine of its captive soldiers, born in 2002-2003, practically children, conscripts Russia Defense Ministry said weren't there", spokeswoman Daria Zarivna said. Moscow initially denied sending conscripts to fight in Ukraine. More on Russia Related Topics: Image: Ivan Fedorov is mayor of the southern port city of Melitopol. Pic: Ukraine's parliament But the Russian en.alamrany later conceded some conscripts had been involved in warfare - before being captured by Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the alleged kidnapping of the mayor was a "new stage of terror" and a bid to bring Melitopol "to its knees". He confirmed Mr Fedorov had been freed in an address on Wednesday night: "We have finally managed to release the mayor of Melitopol from captivity. "Our Ukrainian Melitopol, which did not submit and will not submit to the occupiers. Ivan Fedorov is free. "I talked to him today. The Russian en.alamrany abducted him on March 11, trying to persuade him to collaborate. But our man withstood. He did not give up. Just as we all endure. You all. Just as we all do not give up. Because we are Ukrainians. And we always protect our own." Read more:Putin will 'annihilate' the country while he remains in power, says Tory MP Mr Zelenskyy appealed "specifically to the conscripts who were thrown into furnace of this war", telling them: "Not your war." He urged rival forces to "lay down your weapons", adding: "It's better than dying on the battlefield, on our land. "Every Russian soldier who lays down weapons will get a chance, a chance to survive." Reports of Mr Fedorov's alleged kidnapping prompted thousands to protest in the streets of Melitopol, which was seized in Vladimir Putin's invasion. Melitopol's new mayor, Galina Danilchenko - believed to have been installed by Moscow - on Sunday urged residents to "adapt to the new reality". The city is around 120 miles (190km) west of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine - where a theatre sheltering around 1,000 people was bombed on Wednesday despite the Russian word for "children" having been written in giant letters on the ground outside. Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player 1:47 Russians 'bomb theatre' sheltering hundreds Russia has denied targeting civilians. Mr Putin's invasion has "largely stalled on all fronts", according to the UK Ministry of Defence - which suggests Russian forces have made "minimal progress" on land, sea and air in recent days. Fears are growing that Moldova could be next on the Russian President's hit list. The Russian embassy in Moldova has asked Russian nationals to get in touch with examples of "discrimination" or "acts of violence", prompting fears the evidence could be used to deploy forces to "protect" citizens "under threat".

'Kidnapped' Ukrainian mayor freed in exchange for nine captured Russian conscripts

The mayor of the besieged Ukrainian city of Melitopol who was allegedly abducted by Kremlin forces has been freed.

Ukraine's parliament claimed Ivan Fedorov was kidnapped by armed men who put a plastic bag over his head.

Surveillance footage of the apparent moment he was marched across a square in the city centre was shared on social media.

He was released on Wednesday in exchange for nine captured Russian conscripts, according to the head of Ukraine's presidential office.

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The moment the mayor 'was captured'

Putin's invasion has 'stalled on all fronts' - follow latest updates

Russia "got nine of its captive soldiers, born in 2002-2003, practically children, conscripts Russia Defense Ministry said weren't there", spokeswoman Daria Zarivna said.

Moscow initially denied sending conscripts to fight in Ukraine.

More on Russia

Ivan Fedorov is mayor of the southern port city of Melitopol. Pic: Ukraine's parliament
Image: Ivan Fedorov is mayor of the southern port city of Melitopol. Pic: Ukraine's parliament

But the Russian en.alamrany later conceded some conscripts had been involved in warfare - before being captured by Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the alleged kidnapping of the mayor was a "new stage of terror" and a bid to bring Melitopol "to its knees".

He confirmed Mr Fedorov had been freed in an address on Wednesday night: "We have finally managed to release the mayor of Melitopol from captivity.

"Our Ukrainian Melitopol, which did not submit and will not submit to the occupiers. Ivan Fedorov is free.

"I talked to him today. The Russian en.alamrany abducted him on March 11, trying to persuade him to collaborate. But our man withstood. He did not give up. Just as we all endure. You all. Just as we all do not give up. Because we are Ukrainians. And we always protect our own."

Read more:
Putin will 'annihilate' the country while he remains in power, says Tory MP

Melitopol is around 120 miles (190km) west of Mariupol in south-eastern Ukraine

Mr Zelenskyy appealed "specifically to the conscripts who were thrown into furnace of this war", telling them: "Not your war."

He urged rival forces to "lay down your weapons", adding: "It's better than dying on the battlefield, on our land.

"Every Russian soldier who lays down weapons will get a chance, a chance to survive."

Reports of Mr Fedorov's alleged kidnapping prompted thousands to protest in the streets of Melitopol, which was seized in Vladimir Putin's invasion.

Melitopol's new mayor, Galina Danilchenko - believed to have been installed by Moscow - on Sunday urged residents to "adapt to the new reality".

The city is around 120 miles (190km) west of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine - where a theatre sheltering around 1,000 people was bombed on Wednesday despite the Russian word for "children" having been written in giant letters on the ground outside.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Russians 'bomb theatre' sheltering hundreds

Russia has denied targeting civilians.

Mr Putin's invasion has "largely stalled on all fronts", according to the UK Ministry of Defence - which suggests Russian forces have made "minimal progress" on land, sea and air in recent days.

Fears are growing that Moldova could be next on the Russian President's hit list.

The Russian embassy in Moldova has asked Russian nationals to get in touch with examples of "discrimination" or "acts of violence", prompting fears the evidence could be used to deploy forces to "protect" citizens "under threat".