Zelensky says Russian forces kidnapped mayor of Melitopol

A building was destroyed by a bomb near a school in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, on Friday. According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Photo by Miguel A. Lopes/EPA-EFE
A building was destroyed by a bomb near a school in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, on Friday. According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Photo by Miguel A. Lopes/EPA-EFE

March 11 (UPI) -- Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that Russian forces had kidnapped the mayor of Melitopol, a coastal city near the Sea of Azov.

"Today in Melitopol, the invaders captured Mayor Ivan Fedorov -- a mayor who courageously defends Ukraine and the people of his community," Zelensky said in a televised address.


"Obviously, this is a sign of the weakness of the invaders. They did not find any support on our land, although they counted on it, because for years they have been lying to themselves that people in Ukraine were supposedly waiting for Russia to come."

Zelensky said that Russia has "switched to a new stage of terror" because of the lack of support for the invasion among the Ukrainian people and "are trying to physically eliminate representatives of the legitimate local Ukrainian authorities."


"The capture of the mayor of Melitopol is a crime not only against a particular person, not only against a particular community, and not only against Ukraine. This is a crime against democracy as such," Zelensky said.

"The actions of the Russian invaders will be equated with the actions of ISIS terrorists. The whole country saw that Melitopol did not surrender to the invaders."

Zelensky also said that Russian troops had disrupted the work of most humanitarian corridors that had been established to evacuate and help civilians in the country.

Data from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees shows that more than 2.5 million refugees have fled the country since the invasion began Feb. 24. More than 1.5 million have fled to Poland alone.

The number of refugees leaving the country peaked on Tuesday as 206,915 refugees crossed the Ukraine border into surrounding countries, with the number of refugees dropping each day since.

Doctors Without Borders said in a statement Friday that the humanitarian crisis in Mariupol, another city in eastern Ukraine, is "extremely dire" as Russian forces continue the shelling of the city.

The humanitarian organization said it cannot enter the city to provide aid and civilians cannot flee, with residents suffering from dehydration, skin infections caused by crowding and respiratory infections as well as the spread of COVID-19.


"In Mariupol, our teams report that many families do not have enough water, food and medicine. For small children this can be particularly dangerous," Kate White, an emergency manager with the aid group, said in the statement."In Mariupol today, there is hardly any safe place and the sound of gunfire, shelling and aerial bombardment is ever-present."

People across Ukraine reported hearing air raid sirens across the country in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Pentagon press aecretary John Kirby said in a televised press conference Friday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Slovakia next week to meet with civilian and military leaders in the country to deepen ties with the country and ensure the commitment of the United States to its NATO allies.

"All of this is by choice. Mr. Putin can stop this war right now by agreeing to a diplomatic solution or -- at least -- just stopping the bombing and the death and destruction he is causing," Kirby said.

His comments come as the U.S. military continues to deploy service members into Europe.

Also on Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency, a nuclear watchdog, said in a statement that technicians have started to repair damaged power lines in a bid to restore external electrical power to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which was quickly seized by Russian forces after the invasion began.


The power plant, the site of a nuclear disaster in 1986 when a part of the Soviet Union, has been running on emergency diesel generators since losing power on Wednesday. The generators are powering systems important for safety but that its disconnection from the power grid "will not have a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site."

On Thursday, Interpol released a statement noting that "neutrality is fundamental" to the international police cooperative's work in combating global crime.

"Interpol's mandate does not include issuing sanctions or taking punitive measures, nor is there any provision in the Constitution for the suspension or exclusion of a member country," the statement reads.

However, the organization said that information supplied to its member nations sent by Moscow's National Central Bureau will temporarily be fact-checked by its general-secretariat before being disseminated "to prevent any potential misuse."

Protesters in Russia continue to denounce the country's government for invading Ukraine in defiance of a new law criminalizing speaking out against the Russian government, according to press releases from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia.

In one example, a 20-year-old man in the city of Ufa was arrested and sentenced to a fine of about $335 for having 180 leaflets criticizing the Russian military.


Latest Headlines