Russia is accused of holding eight Ukrainian mayors captive amid the war between the two Eastern European countries, according to an organization of mayors in Ukraine.
The eight mayors have all been allegedly abducted in the four months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the “special military operation” in Ukraine in late February under the guise of “liberating” the Donbas region, an eastern region with a high concentration of Russian speakers.
Many of the mayors are from cities, villages and settlements that remain under occupation in the southern and eastern part of Ukraine, according to the Association of Cities of Ukraine.
Details about where the mayors were being held or their condition remained unknown, but their capture has sparked allegations of war crimes from Ukrainian authorities.
The most recent alleged abduction was of Petro Zbarovskyi, the head of the Novotroitsky village on Friday. Several other mayors were abducted—Ihor Kolykhaev of Kherson, Valentina Kostenko of Veliko Kopaniv, Dmytro Lyakhno of Gornostaiv and Serhii Khilchenko of Khrestiv were additionally taken into Russain custody last Thursday, according to the association.
Other mayors abducted in March include Yevhen Matveyev of Dniprorudne, Oleksandr Shmygol of Vilkhiv and Oleksandr Babich of Holopristan, according to the association.
“The Association of Cities of Ukraine continues to appeal to international organizations for the protection of local government officials captured by the Russian aggressor and calls on everyone to join in their release,” the association wrote in a press release calling for the mayors’ releases.
Ukrainian and international authorities have previously raised concerns about these abductions.
According to Radio Free Europe, Oleksandr Starukh, the head of the military administration of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya region, wrote in a Facebook post following Matveyev’s abduction: “War crimes are becoming more and more systematic.”
Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, warned about the abduction of mayors and other Ukrainian political authorities in March.
“The EU strongly condemns the kidnapping of the mayors of Melitopol and Dniprorudne by Russian armed forces. It is yet another attack on democratic institutions in #Ukraine and an attempt to establish illegitimate alternative government structures in a sovereign country,” he tweeted. Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol, was released from Russian captivity in March.
Russia has faced other allegations of capturing Ukrainian politicians throughout the conflict.
Last week, Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov accused Russia of kidnapping Yormolenko Borys Heorhiyovych, a member of the city government who has espoused pro-Ukraine views.
Newsweek reached out to the Russian defense ministry for comment.