Kyiv is now working on the release of Ihor Kolykhaev, the mayor of Kherson who disappeared nearly a year-and-a-half ago, Ukrainian intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov told Kyiv Post on Monday.

Yusov confirmed that the mayor of the southern Ukrainian city is “a civilian held illegally by the occupiers.”

Because Kolykhaev is a civilian, the conditions for his release are difficult to say – however, Ukraine is working toward his release.

Yusov did not comment on whether the Russians have named whom they would want in Ukrainian custody in exchange for Kolykhaev.

“Civilians are not an exchange fund. Military personnel are not exchanged for civilians,” he said.

Ukrainian intelligence has known for “a long time,” that the mayor was in captivity and at one point was held in Crimea, but Yusov didn’t say how long Kyiv has known about the mayor's status or where the mayor is currently being held.

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On Sunday, Sept. 17, Kolykhaev's son, Svyatoslav, told journalists that he had contacted the Red Cross and been told that Russia had submitted his father’s name on a list of prisoners being held in Russia.

“Where exactly and about the state of his health were not mentioned,” Svyatoslav said.

The Kherson mayor – who disappeared in June 2022 – had refused to cooperate with the Russian occupation government, his assistant Halyna Lyashevska wrote on Facebook just a few days before Kolykhaev’s disappearance.

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“They (FSB officers – successors to the Soviet KGB) removed hard drives from computers, opened all safes, searched for documents. All this time Kolykhaev was kept in a separate office in handcuffs under armed guard. After the search, Kolykhaev was put on a bus with the letter Z and taken away,” Lyashevska said.

From time to time, freed Ukrainian prisoners had reported seeing the mayor in captivity.

A Kherson partisan Natalia Havrilenko told The New York Times that she had seen Kolykhaev at the same Kherson jail where she was held in October 2022, although, shortly after – when Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson – there was no sign of him.

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Havrilenko said that the mayor had lost weight,but showed no outward signs of torture.

There was “no fear in his eyes” she said, and from their brief conversation, she believed that he had remained loyal to Ukraine.

There have been repeated rumors that the mayor had pro-Russian views.

Prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion, Kolykhaev had advocated for restoring Ukraine’s water supply to occupied Crimea.

On background, several Kyiv Post sources had said that Kolykhaev had voluntarily sided with the Russians, who took him out of the city.

However, when Kyiv Post turned to the Security Service of Ukraine with the question of whether Ukrainian intelligence had any suspicions of Kolykhaev’s treason, there was no response.

At the beginning of this year, Former Deputy Head of the Office of the President Kyrylo Tymoshenko had no answer to the question.

Following Russia’s occupation of Kherson, Kolykhaev had stayed in the city and communicated with Ukrainian media about his life there.

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The mayor maintained contact with the Ukrainian government and continued in his duties. He said that he was working to motivate Kherson residents to not give up.

“Every day I go around utility companies, talk to residents,” Kolykhaev had said.

Although rumors abound that Yusov had been held in Russian captivity, previously, no state structure had confirmed it.

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