The mayor of Melitopol, a besieged Ukrainian town, who was allegedly abducted and held captive by Kremlin forces, has been released.
Ukraine The parliament claimed Ivan Fedorov had been kidnapped by armed who placed a plastic bag on his head.
Social media users shared surveillance footage that captured him being marched across a square in central London.
According to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, he was released Wednesday in exchange for nine Russian conscripts.
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Russia “got nine of its captured soldiers, born in 2002 and 2003, practically children,” spokeswoman Daria Zarivna stated.
Moscow initially refused to send conscripts to fight for Ukraine.
However, the Russian military admitted that some conscripts were involved in warfare before they were captured by Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zilenskyy claimed that the kidnapping of Melitopol’s mayor was a “new stage in terror” and an attempt to bring Melitopol down.
In an address on Wednesday night, he confirmed that Mr Fedorov was freed: “We finally managed to free the mayor of Melitopol.
“Our Ukrainian Melitopol did not submit to the occupiers and will not submit. Ivan Fedorov has been released.
“I spoke to him today. He was trying to convince him to cooperate when the Russian military kidnapped him. Our man remained strong. He didn’t give up. As we all persevere. You all. We all persevere, just as we do not give up. We are Ukrainians. We always protect our rights.”
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Mr Zelenskyy appealed to “specifically the conscripts who had been thrown into furnaces of this war”, telling them “Not your war.”
He encouraged his rival forces to “lay off your weapons,” adding that it was better than dying on the field, on our land.
“Every Russian soldier who puts down weapons will have a chance, a possibility to survive.”
Reports about Mr Fedorov’s alleged kidnapping prompted thousands of people to protest on the streets of Melitopol. This city was seized during Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
Melitopol’s new mayor Galina Danilchenko, – thought to have been installed in Moscow – urged residents on Sunday to “adapt to the new realities”.
The city lies 120 miles (190km west) of Mariupol, in the southeastern Ukraine. There is a theatre housing around 1,000 people that was bombed Wednesday despite the Russian term for “children” being written in large letters outside.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
According to the UK Ministry of Defence, Mr Putin’s invasion “largely stalled at all fronts” – suggesting that Russian forces have made “minimal advances” on land and sea in recent days.
There are increasing fears that Moldova may be next on Russia’s hit-list.
Russian diplomat in Moldova asked Russian citizens to send examples of discrimination or acts of violence to the Russian Embassy in Moldova. This raised fears that evidence could be used in order to “protect” citizens who are “under threat”.