The mayor-at-large of Melitopol, an Azov coastal region city occupied by Russian Federation (RF) forces on the second day of the war, said partisans operating mostly at night have killed at least 100 RF soldiers in ambushes, primarily of RF police patrols.
Mayor Ivan Fedoriv made the claim during a late Thursday, 21 April, evening television interview. RF authorities abducted him on March 11 and held him in a Melitopol prison cell, without admitting his kidnapping ever took place, until a March 19 prisoner exchange. According to his accounts at the time, he was subjected to sleep deprivation and other forms of psychological torture.
RF authorities are struggling to respond to the partisan attacks because Melitopol residents overwhelmingly oppose RF occupation of the city, he said.
“According to our intelligence, there have been confirmed the destruction of 100 occupiers. They (RF authorities) are trying to find someone responsible, but they can’t, because all of Melitopol is against them,” Fedoriv said.
Christo Grozev, director of the leading OSINT research group Bellingcat, in comments published by Novoe Vremya magazine on Friday, said the Kremlin’s misconception that its invading troops would be welcomed by Ukrainians is fully discredited, and that Melitopol’s residents are wholly against RF occupation.
“The Fifth Column (Ukrainian civilian supporters the Kremlin was depending on) is showing up – but on the level of ten people in all of Melitopol, and that’s it,” Grozev said.
Fedoriv said RF authorities have antagonized Melitopol residents by taking over the city government, quartering RF troops in privately-owned apartments, registering men aged 18-60 for call-up into the Russian army, and kidnapping Melitopol residents thought to support the Ukrainian government.
Serhiy Primas, the head of a Melitopol city district, has been in RF police detention for more than a month without having had charges filed against him, or access to family or a lawyer, Fedoriv said. Kyiv’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova on Wednesday said her office has collected evidence of more than 8,000 human rights or war crimes committed by RF soldiers and officials.
RF combat units routinely park their vehicles between civilian homes, effectively using Melitopol residents as human shields, Fedoriv said. Extensive eyewitness accounts and drone footage collected by independent and social media confirmed Federiv’s claim.
Fedoriv’s remarks about Ukrainian partisan attacks came two days after Valery Kuleshov, a pro-Russian blogger living in the neighboring city Kherson, an alleged collaborator with RF occupying forces, was shot dead in his car in a gangland-style assassination.
Later the same day notices posted on telephone poles and building walls in Kherson appeared, saying “Russian occupiers and everyone who supports them. We are close, already operating in Kherson. Death awaits you all! Kherson is Ukraine.” RF authorities in Kherson have not announced any suspects or arrests in connection with the murder.
This followed the March 26 Kherson killing of alleged RF collaborator Pavlo Slobodchikov, who likewise was gunned down in his vehicle.
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