Ukraine’s president demanded the release Saturday of the mayor of Melitopol, calling his kidnapping a "crime against democracy."
Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Ivan Federov as "a mayor who bravely defends Ukraine and the members of his community" in a Telegram video.
"This is obviously a sign of weakness of the invaders," he said. "They have moved to a new stage of terror in which they are trying to physically eliminate representatives of legitimate local Ukrainian authorities."
"The capture of the mayor of Melitopol is, therefore, a crime, not only against a particular person, against a particular community, and not only against Ukraine. It is a crime against democracy itself," he said.
Accusing Russia of not allowing supplies into the southern city, he said: "Russian troops have not let our aid into the city and continue to torture our people ... tomorrow we will try again, try again to send food, water, and medicine."
The president said 7,144 people were evacuated from Enerhodar, Bucha, Hostomel and Kozarovychi on Friday.
He again urged the mothers of Russian soldiers to prevent their sons from being sent to fight in the war.
The number of Russian soldiers who died in Ukraine exceeds 12,000, he said, and thousands of soldiers were taken as prisoners.
At least 564 civilians have been killed and 957 injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the war on Feb. 24, the UN said, while indicating that conditions on the ground make it difficult to verify the true number.
More than 2.5 million people have fled to neighboring countries, with about 2 million more estimated to be displaced inside Ukraine, according to the UN refugee agency.