He arrives in a hurry, his two telephones in his hand, a backpack on his shoulder and a black fleece with his country’s crest. The mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine, kidnapped by the Russians on March 11 for five days, has no time to feel sorry for himself. This Friday 1er April, Ivan Fedorov is in Paris to meet Emmanuel Macron, alert Europe and bear witness to Russia’s practices in the territories it has controlled since the start of the offensive in Ukraine. The 33-year-old elected official, who runs this city of 150,000 inhabitants, tells the World how the course of his life and that of the citizens of his city changed on February 24.
“The war began in Melitopol from the first day of the invasion, he explains, with a frank gaze and dark circles around his eyes. Russian soldiers surrounded the city and fired rockets at military bases just 200 meters from residential areas. »
The electrical system, heating, access to water and the Internet are then cut off. “The next day, we tried to repair. With our team, we then decided not to leave Melitopol and to wait for help. » The city falls under the control of the Russians forty-eight hours later.
As in other occupied cities, the Russians then discovered that they were not welcome and attended, stunned, demonstrations by hundreds of inhabitants urging them to ” go back home “. “The occupants have become more and more aggressive. [Les Russes] thought they would win the war in three days, and realized that was impossible. »
Refusal to resign
The soldiers try to deter the demonstrators by force by shooting some of them in the legs. Two civilians are injured. “It didn’t happen again, because they understood that otherwise people would protest even more. » The Russians then opted for another method: kidnappings, which have since become commonplace. In one week, at least fifteen people are kidnapped in Melitopol. Soldiers do their scouting during protests, then people abruptly disappear.
On March 11, Ivan Fedorov was working in the center for helping the population, set up in the first days of the war, when a dozen armed men burst in, seized the mayor and took him away. Outside, ten cars are waiting for him. ” I did not understand, says the chosen one. They told me they were arresting me because I had ties to a Ukrainian right-wing radical party, although I don’t know anyone from that faction. » Ivan Fedorov is the first Ukrainian mayor to be kidnapped.
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