The arrest of Igor Kolykhaev comes amid growing efforts by Russian-appointed authorities in the region to strip him of Ukrainian ties, as well as periodic assassination attempts against people collaborating with the Russians.
“I confirm that Kolykhaev has been detained by the commandant’s office,” Katerina Gubareva, an employee of the temporary administration of the Kherson region, said late on Tuesday.
Kolykhaev remained in the city throughout the occupation, but the pro-Russian authorities removed him from his post.
Speaking about his arrest, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the military-civilian administration of the Kherson region, said that Kolykhaev “passed himself off as a benefactor,” but “made every effort to ensure that some people continued to believe in the return of neo-Nazism.” . “
Stremousov also claimed, without citing evidence, that Kolykhaev “stole millions, but gave people not a penny.”
“I believe that fair retribution will come to all who want blood, death and war,” he added.
Last week, on Russian television, Stremousov said that Kolykhaev was sabotaging work in the Kherson region.
“We even have Nazis in some areas who control the administration. What’s stopping [us] today from the cleansing of these Nazis and accomplices of fascism?” he said.
The first report of Kolykhaev’s detention came from his adviser, Galina Lyashevskaya, who wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that he had arrived “at one of the municipal institutions where the rest of the city executive committee employees worked. As soon as he got out of the car, he was immediately detained by armed Russian guards.”
“They seized the hard drives of computers, opened all the safes, searched the documents,” Lyashevskaya added.
“All this time, Kolykhaev was kept in a separate room in handcuffs under armed guards. After the search, Kolykhaev was put into bus Z and taken away.”
The letter Z is applied to many Russian cars in the occupied territories of Ukraine.
“I am sure that the arrest of Kolykhaev is connected with his refusal to cooperate with the occupation authorities,” Lyashevsky said.
“A few days ago, Kolykhaev received a letter from the “newly appointed” mayor with an invitation to discuss the future “organization of interaction”. He was threatened with arrest for refusing to meet.”
Sergei Khlan, an adviser to the head of the Kherson civil military administration, told CNN that Kolykhayev is ambivalent about the Russian occupation.
“For a while, the Russians even let him sit under Ukrainian flags,” he said.
Hlan said that at the time the occupying authorities insisted that officials enter into contracts with the Russians and be paid in rubles.
“Kolykhaev had a choice. Either sign the betrayal of Ukraine and, finally, openly work with the occupiers, or refuse to cooperate,” he said.
Kolykhaev remained in office for more than two months after the Russian invasion.
In April, he told Ukrainian television: “I have no information about the so-called Kherson People’s Republic. Representatives of local authorities in Kherson are at their workplaces in the city administration.”
Kolykhayev’s arrest follows Monday’s visit to Kherson by Russian MP Alexander Boroday, the former prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
Borodai said that he left “with an ambiguous impression, because we understand that somewhere, of course, the city is ours, and somewhere – not quite ours.”
“There is our mayor in Kherson, and there is a pro-Ukrainian mayor,” Borodai said. “The mayor of Kyiv holds meetings, and our mayor holds meetings.
“It seems that our administration is there with Vladimir Saldo [the Russian-appointed mayor]but at the same time, Kherson lives a very double life,” he added.
Borodai said that peace reigned in the city.
“Everything looks very safe, it doesn’t look like Donetsk, Lugansk, Mariupol, Izyum at all – everything looks much better,” he said. “But it is not entirely clear whether our power is there or not. And this needs to be done as soon as possible.”
Thirty-six hours after Borodai’s visit, pro-Russian authorities announced plans to hold a referendum on joining the Kherson region to the Russian Federation.
Some officials in Kherson who were previously detained have been released.
On Wednesday, the public organization “Association of Cities of Ukraine” reported that the heads of two communities of Kherson – Alexander Babich from Hola Pristan and Ivan Samoylenko from Stanislav – were released from captivity.
According to the Association, Babich was detained on March 28 “for a patriotic position”, and Ivan Samoylenko “was captured by the enemy on June 24.”
Earlier this month, Ukrainian authorities said that “more and more people [in Kherson] refuse to cooperate with the occupiers and local collaborators.”
On June 15, the Ukrainian military stated that “occupiers broke into the main building of Kherson State University, captured the rector and took him away in an unknown direction.”