Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of kidnapping the mayor of the southern port city of Melitopol, equating it to the actions of so-called Islamic State “terrorists”.
“They have transitioned into a new stage of terror, in which they try to physically liquidate representatives of Ukraine’s lawful local authorities,” Mr Zelensky said in a video address.
Kirill Timoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, posted a video on the social media site Telegram which he said showed a group of armed men carrying mayor Ivan Fedorov across a square.
The prosecutor’s office of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a Moscow-backed rebel region in eastern Ukraine, said on its website that there was a criminal case against Mr Fedorov.
The prosecutor’s office accused him of “terrorist activities” and of financing the nationalist militia Right Sector to “commit terrorist crimes against Donbass civilians”. The office said it was looking for Mr Fedorov and called for anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact them.
Meanwhile, authorities warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the port city of Mariupol, which has been encircled by Russian forces and cut off from deliveries of food and medicine.
Mariupol officials said on Friday that 1,582 people had been killed in the 12 days since the siege began.
“There is a humanitarian catastrophe in the city and the dead aren’t even being buried,” Mariupol’s mayor’s office said in a statement calling for Russian forces to lift the siege.
Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes and preventing civilians from escaping the city of 430,000 people.
It came as US soldiers continued to deploy to Europe, joining thousands already sent overseas to support Nato allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
About 130 soldiers from the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade gathered Friday at Hunter Airfield in Savannah, Georgia and departed on a chartered flight.
The soldiers are in addition to the estimated 3,800 soldiers from the army’s 3rd Infantry Division who deployed recently from nearby Fort Stewart.
And YouTube announced on Friday it had begun blocking access globally to channels associated with Russian state-funded media. It had previously blocked them — specifically RT and Sputnik — across Europe.