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Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba on Wednesday said the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, who had been arrested by Russian authorities, had been freed.

“Ukraine conducted a ‘special operation’ and rescued #Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov from captivity in the occupied #Luhansk! Melitopol is Ukraine! Thank you all who supported the #FreeIvanFedorov hashtag! #StandWithUkraine,” Scherba tweeted.

Ukraine’s defense ministry confirmed that Fedorov had been released and showed a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking to him over the phone.

“The President of Ukraine @ZelenskyyUa spoke with the released mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov,” the Ukrainian defense ministry tweeted.  “’We do not abandon ours,’ said the President.”

Ukrainian officials have alleged that Russian forces have abducted several mayors, including Yevhen Matveyev from the southern town of Dniprorudne and Oleksandr Yakovlyev from the southern city of Skadovsk.

President Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” for the first time

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the State Department was conducting a legal process regarding the designation for the Russian president but said the president’s comments “speak for themselves.”

“The president’s remarks speak for themselves; he was speaking from his heart and speaking from what he’s seen on television, which is barbaric actions by a brutal dictator through an invasion of a foreign country,” Psaki told reporters. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview aired earlier on Wednesday that the U.S. would be looking into whether Russia was intentionally targeting journalists and civilians, which he said would be a “war crime.” 

Tags abduction Antony Blinken Jen Psaki Joe Biden Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin war crime

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