NEW YORK — The mayor of Melitopol, Ukraine, who was taken hostage on March 11 by the Russians after refusing to cooperate with their occupying forces, has been released in a prisoner exchange. The mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was reportedly exchanged for nine Russian prisoners of war captured by the Ukrainians.

Fedorov disappeared after he was purportedly shown being led away with a bag over his head by a large group of heavily armed Russian soldiers in Melitopol’s Victory Square in a CCTV video shared by Ukrainian presidential advisor Kirilo Timoshenko on Telegram. Russian-controlled separatists then announced they were bringing charges against Fedorov for “aiding terrorism.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the abduction of the mayor, a civil official, as a “crime against democracy.” Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda reports that the mayor spoke with the president after the successful prisoner exchange and thanked him for his efforts. Zelenskyy released a video of himself on Telegram Wednesday reportedly talking on the phone with Fedorov. The mayor thanked Zelenskyy and said he needed a couple of days to recover from his ordeal and then would be ready to fulfill any orders.

Zelenskyy said that “We have finally managed to release the mayor of Melitopol from captivity. Ivan Fedorov is free. I talked to him today. The Russian military abducted him on March 11, trying to persuade him to collaborate. But our man withstood. He did not give up. Just as we all endure.”

Ukrainian sources claim that two other mayors have been abducted. Zelenskyy said that “they didn’t find collaborators to hand the city to invaders so they moved to a new phase of terror and tried to physically eliminate the legitimate local Ukrainian representatives.”

As reported by Vos Iz Neias