Ukraine is trying to get a captured mayor back from Russia more than a year after he went missing
- A Ukrainian mayor went missing more than a year ago, when his city was under Russian control.
- Ukraine confirmed for the first time that he is a Russian captive, saying it's trying to get him back.
Ukraine said it is trying to get a captured mayor back from Russia more than a year after he disappeared while defying aspects of Russian rule in his city.
Ihor Kolykhaev was the mayor of the southeastern city of Kherson, which was captured by Russia in March and then retaken by Ukrainian forces in November.
Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukrainian intelligence, told the Kyiv Post that Kolykhaev was being held by Russia after he disappeared last year, describing him as "a civilian held illegally by the occupiers."
Yusov's comments are the first official confirmation that Kolykhaev is being held by Russia, the report said.
He added that Ukraine is working to get Kolykhaev released.
Ukraine has been able to get back some soldiers and military members from Russia through swaps, but Yusov said that because Kolykhaev is a civilian, it's difficult to say what the conditions for his release would be.
Yusov would not comment on whether Russia had identified any prisoners that Ukraine holds that it might exchange for Kolykhaev.
"Civilians are not an exchange fund. Military personnel are not exchanged for civilians," Yusov said.
Yusov said last week that Russia refuses to give many Ukrainian prisoners back, without giving any explanations, including some who were held on made-up charges, he said.
He added that Ukraine is "dealing with a state that often ignores international law and the Geneva Conventions."
Yusov did not say where Kolykhaev is being held, or how long Ukraine has known that he was in Russian hands, only saying Ukraine has known for "a long time."
Kolykhaev's son also said this month that the Red Cross told him that Russia listed his father's name as a prisoner, the Kyiv Post reported.
The mayor was reportedly captured in June 2022. The Kyiv Post reported that there were rumors he held pro-Russian views, but Ukrainian intelligence did not respond to questions on that.
Kolykhaev told residents in the city to follow Russia's orders and not fight back after Russia's victory there. But he was also critical of Russia after it took over the city and before he disappeared.
Galyna Lyashevska, an advisor to Kolykhaev, said after he was taken that he had refused a request from Russia's puppet government in the area and said they "threatened to arrest him if he refused to meet him. He did refuse."
Kherson is the biggest city that Russia has captured since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022.
Russia installed a proxy government in the city when it controlled the area and tried to remove aspects of Ukrainian life and identity there.
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