Young Russian Soldiers Exchanged by Ukraine for Return of Melitopol Mayor

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office said Wednesday afternoon that Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov was released after his abduction in exchange for nine young Russian soldiers.

Fedorov has returned to his duties as mayor and was given a medal by Zelensky for his reported lack of cooperation with his alleged Russian captors, the president's office said on Telegram.

The mayor was reportedly abducted by Russian soldiers last week, along with several other local officials in various cities around Ukraine. Ukraine's parliament claimed in a series of tweets that Fedorov was taken by a group of 10 individuals who placed a plastic bag over his head. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry released a statement that said the abduction qualified as a war crime under the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the taking of civilian hostages during war.

"The fact of the abduction of the Mayor of Melitopol, along with hundreds of other facts of war crimes by Russian occupiers on the Ukrainian soil, are being carefully documented by law enforcement agencies. The perpetrators of this and other crimes will be brought to the strictest responsibility," the ministry said.

Melitopol Ivan Fedorov Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office said that Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov has returned to his duties as mayor following his release from Russian captivity. Above, Zelensky looks on at a press conference for selected media at his official residence, the Maryinsky Palace, on March 3, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Laurent Van der Stockt for Le Monde/Getty Images

After Fedorov's release, the Melitopol Telegram channel posted a video of Zelensky on the phone with the mayor, as well as a video of Fedorov speaking to the camera. Later, it posted a photo of Zelensky handing Fedorov his "Order for Courage of the Third Degree" medal.

Kyiv mayor and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko said earlier this week that he was prepared to "fight" any Russian soldiers who attempted to kidnap him.

"I am not worried about kidnap," Klitschko told America Reports host John Roberts. "I am ready to fight, that's why I have weapons, that's why it's my hometown and I want to defend the interest of my citizens, the interest of my home, the interest of my family."

Newsweek contacted both the Ukrainian and Russian Foreign Ministries for comment on the reported exchange.

Earlier this week, Zelensky spoke in an address to Congress requesting more assistance from the United States, including the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as well as additional sanctions on Russia to pressure the country to halt the invasion.

Follow our live blog for updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Update 03/17/22, 5:56 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and background.