The Russians capture the mayor and try to conquer the Ukrainian town. WGN Radio 720

Kyiv, UKRAINE (AP) — Shortly after Russian tanks entered Ukraine, soldiers broke down the door of the office of Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov. They put a bag over his head, tied him up in a car, drove him for hours through a southern city, and threatened to kill him.

Fedorov, 34, is one of more than 50 local leaders who have been taken prisoner by Russia since the war began on February 24 as they tried to conquer cities and towns coming under Moscow’s control. Like many others, he said he was pressured to cooperate with the invaders.

“The bullying and intimidation didn’t stop for a second. They tried to force me to lead the city under the Russian flag, but I refused,” Fedorov told the Associated Press by phone in Kyiv last month. rice field. “They didn’t hit me, but I was told that all day and night, a thunderous scream awaited me from the cell next door.”

As Russians occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, civilian administrators and others, including nuclear power plant workers, were kidnapped, threatened and beaten to coerce cooperation. claims. Legal and human rights experts say this could constitute a war crime.

Ukrainian and Western historians state that this tactic is used when the invading forces are unable to conquer the population.

Hundreds of residents took to the streets to demand Fedorov’s release this year as Russian troops tried to strengthen control of Melitopol. They were exchanged for prisoners of war and expelled from the occupied cities. A figure of the parent Kremlin was installed.

“Russians cannot govern an occupied city. They have neither personnel nor experience,” Fedorov said. They know someone needs to “clean up the streets and fix the destroyed houses”, so they want civil servants to work for them.

The Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC), a group of local leaders across Ukraine, said at least 10 of more than 50 officials, including 34 mayors, remained in custody.

Russian officials have not commented on the allegations. Russian-backed authorities in eastern Ukraine have launched a criminal investigation into Fedorov for alleged involvement in terrorist activities.

“The kidnapping of village, town and city heads, especially in times of war, endangers all inhabitants of the community.

In the southern city of Kherson, one of the first Russian cities to conquer and a key target in the ongoing counteroffensive, Mayor Ihor Korikayev tried to hold his ground. He said in April that he would refuse to work with the new Kremlin-backed overseer.

Kirill Stremsov, deputy head of the Russian-installed regional government, has repeatedly referred to Korikhaev as a “Nazi”, echoing the erroneous Kremlin narrative that the attack on Ukraine was an attempt to “denazify” the country. condemned.

Kolykhaiev continued to oversee Kherson’s utilities until his June 28 arrest. His whereabouts remain unknown.

According to the UN Human Rights Observatory Mission in Ukraine, the first six months of the war documented the enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests of 407 civilians in Russian-occupied territories. Most of them were civil servants, local councilors, civil society activists and journalists.

Yulia Gorbunova, senior research fellow at Human Rights Watch, said the abuses “violate international law and may constitute war crimes,” and that the actions of the Russian military were “informed and fear-inducing.” He added that it appeared to be aimed at “planting.”

The United Nations Office for Human Rights has repeatedly warned that arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances are among the war crimes that may have been committed in Ukraine.

Several mayors were killed, shocking Ukrainian society. Following the discovery of mass burials in areas recaptured by Kyiv, Ukrainian and foreign investigators continue to uncover details of the mayor’s extrajudicial killing.

After the withdrawal of Russian troops, the body of Olga Sukenko, the mayor of the village of Motizin near Kyiv, was found next to the mass grave of her husband and son. With a pre-war population of about 1,000, this village is a short drive from Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were killed during Russian occupation.

Residents said Sukenko refused to cooperate with the Russians. Her hands were tied behind her back when her body was found on the outskirts of Motizin.

Yurii Prylypko, the mayor of nearby Hostomel, was shot dead in March while distributing food and medicine. The attorney general’s office later said his body was found rigged with explosives.

The Ukrainian government has attempted to exchange captive officials for Russian prisoners of war, but officials sometimes demand that the Russian government release hundreds to Kyiv for every Ukrainian in a position of authority. He complains that negotiations are taking too long.

Dmitro Rubinets, Ukraine’s Human Rights Commissioner, said, “It’s a very difficult task, where extra words can get in the way of our communication.” I know the horrible conditions they are in.”

There was no news about the fate of Ivan Samoydyuk, deputy mayor of Enerkhodar, the site of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. Samoydyuk, who was kidnapped in March, has been repeatedly considered for a prisoner exchange, but each time his name has been taken off the list, Mayor Dmitro Orlov told The Associated Press.

Orlov said the 58-year-old deputy mayor was seriously ill when he was seized and “we don’t even know if he’s alive.” At best, Samoyduk is sitting in a basement somewhere, “his life is at the whim of people with guns,” he added.

More than 1,000 Enerkhodar residents, including dozens of workers at Zaporizhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, were temporarily detained by the Russians.

“The majority of those coming out of Russian basements talk of brutal beatings and electric shocks,” he said.

HRW’s chief researcher Gorbunova said that torture “is prohibited under international law in all circumstances and, when related to armed conflict, constitutes a war crime and may constitute a crime against humanity.” said.

Each week brings reports of kidnappings of officials, engineers, doctors and teachers who do not cooperate with the Russians.

Viktor Marnyak, mayor of the village of Stara Zbrivka in the southern Kherson region, is best known for his role in Academy Award-nominated director Roman Bondarchuk’s 2015 documentary The Sheriff of Ukraine. The film explores the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine that began in 2014. The film didn’t win an Oscar, but it cemented the Salt of Margnac reputation.

After Russian forces captured Stara Zubryvka in the spring, Marnyak held pro-Ukrainian rallies and hid activists in his home. He was eventually taken prisoner.

“First, they put (electrical) wires on my big toe. Then they didn’t seem to have enough, so they put them on my big toe. I poured it and let it run down my back,” he told the AP. “Honestly, it was so tattered that there was no effect of the electric current.”

Twenty-three days later, he said, Margnac was “set free to die.” He was hospitalized for 10 days with pneumonia and nine broken ribs before finally making his way to Kyiv-controlled territory.

Hubertus Jahn, a professor of history at the University of Cambridge, said that since the time of Peter the Great, imperial Russia’s tactics of co-opting local populations have targeted elites and aristocrats, and resistance has often resulted in Siberian exile.

During World War II, he said, “German SS units operated in a similar fashion”, targeting local administrators to force the population to surrender. “If you don’t have the power to completely subordinate the region,” he said, it’s a natural strategy.

According to historian Ivan Patrlyuk of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko State University, municipal authorities in Soviet Ukraine often fled before the arrival of Nazi occupying forces, “to avoid mass executions of officials.” It helped,” he said.

“The torture and humiliation of city leaders that the Russians are currently committing is one of the darkest and most shameful pages of the current war,” said Patryluk.


Hanna Arhirova from Kyiv, Joanna Kozlowska from London and Jamey Keaten from Geneva contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at The Russians capture the mayor and try to conquer the Ukrainian town. WGN Radio 720

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