- Russian forces kidnapped the mayor of Melitopol on Friday and installed a new one.
- The new Russian-backed mayor, Galina Danilchenko, said Russian TV was broadcasting in the city from Sunday.
- Russian state media has been heavily censoring news of the Ukraine invasion.
The newly installed mayor of a Ukrainian city occupied by Russian forces said the city and surrounding region would start broadcasting “Russian TV channels.”
Russian forces occupied Melitopol shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. On Friday, Russian troops kidnapped and detained mayor Ivan Fedorov and replaced him with Galina Danilchenko.
Before her elevation, Danilchenko was a representative on the city’s municipal council and a member of Opposition Bloc, a pro-Russia political party founded in 2014.
In a video address Sunday, Danilchenko said that Russian TV was now broadcasting across the region.
“Today, we are experiencing an acute lack of authentic information. Because of that, from today on the territory of Melitopol and Melitopol region starts a digital broadcast of Russian TV channels,” she said. “Reconfigure your receivers to obtain reliable information.”
The coverage of the war in Ukraine by Russia’s state-run media has been heavily censored, and outlets have painted the war as an unbridled success, referring to the invasion as a “special military operation.”
News outlets have outright denied Russia was invading Ukraine or attacking cities — echoing the Kremlin’s line — and dissenters have been silenced on air.
Earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin approved legislation that would see Russians sentenced to 15 years in prison if they reported “fake” information about the Russian army or invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier in March, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said it was restricting all Russian state-owned media across its platforms due to their coverage of the invasion. In response, Russia’s prosecutor general submitted an application to designate Meta as an “extremist” organization, which would lead to all its services being cut in Russia.
The Ukrainian parliament said Friday that Fedorov, the Melitopol mayor, was kidnapped by 10 “occupiers” and that a plastic bag was placed over his head.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that Fedorov’s kidnapping was an attempt to “bring the city to its knees.”
“They have transitioned into a new stage of terror, in which they try to physically liquidate representatives of Ukraine’s lawful local authorities,” he said.
Residents of Melitopol protested Fedorov’s disappearance on Saturday, chanting “Bring back the mayor” and “Where’s our mayor?” The Washington Post reported.