The democratically elected mayor was observing the non-free referendum from his temporary office in a factory in the city of Zaporizhia, in the free part of the province of the same name.
He says he has stayed there since his exchange with Russian POWs in March, after being held for six days.
He grumbles when NRK asks him about the so-called referendum in his Russian-occupied hometown.
– It means nothing. it’s fake. It’s propaganda, Fedorov says, and the Russians are experts in it.
Soldiers in the clouds
According to the constant reports the mayor receives from within Melitopol, just over 20 percent of the population voted in the non-free elections.
Fedorov said election officials are accompanied by soldiers going door to door and from shops and office buildings.
But more than half of the population has left the city, and many are showing resistance by refusing to close or hide elsewhere, he said.
Ukrainians are more united than ever. So the Russians have big problems in the occupied territories. They physically occupied them, but the citizens do not support them and do not want to live in Russia either, says the mayor.
I think Putin will use all means
Fedorov believes that what is happening now, with the so-called referendums in the regions occupied by Russia, is worrying.
– This is a very dangerous time, he says.
The mayor is convinced that the Russian president will use all means to retain power over the occupied territories.
– He now knows that he cannot win this war. Therefore, he might use nuclear weapons, Fedorov says.
– Do you think it could happen?
– Yes I think. It is possible.
In a speech last week, Vladimir Putin repeated the accusation that Russia is the threat, and that the West is engaging in “nuclear blackmail.”
– I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, said the president, and emphasized that “this is not a hoax.”
Several experts interpreted Putin’s threats as A sign of desperation and an attempt to scare Western countries into supporting Ukraine military and political.
– I heard they used torture
When Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24 of this year, only two days passed before it occupied Melitopol in the southeast of the country.
Ivan Fedorov They refused to cooperate with the RussiansOn 11 March he was kidnapped and imprisoned.
People in the city gathered at an administrative building and demanded the mayor’s release, according to the report Washington Post.
Many media, among others NRKHe posted a video allegedly showing Fedorov being taken away by Russian forces.
Fedorov told NRK that he sat in an hour-long interrogation with the FSB.
– It was psychological torture. I heard how they used physical torture on other townspeople in the adjoining rooms. I thought they could come to me at any moment, so it was a very difficult stress, says Fedorov.
It is believed that he was kidnapped because the occupiers wanted to show other mayors what could happen if they did not cooperate.
Liberation through prisoner exchange
After six days in captivity, Fedorov was released in exchange for nine Russian prisoners of war, he said. A number of international media outlets discussed the prisoner exchange, including: Sky News And the Reuters.
For the past six months, the mayor has been trying to persuade the West to understand what is at stake in Ukraine.
Fedorov himself was elected mayor of Melitopol in October 2020. Two out of three voted for him and his ideas to modernize the city and make it more Western.
Less than 10 percent voted for those now cooperating with Russian forces.
The mayor believes that the war in Ukraine is much more than territorial control. It is a war of values, according to Fedorov.
The battle is not primarily geographical. It comes down to whether we choose democracy or dictatorship. This is it.
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