Published11 minutes ago
The Russian-installed deputy governor of Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, has been killed in a car crash, local officials and media say.
The 45-year-old was appointed two months after Russia’s invasion.
He was one of the most prominent proponents of the Russian occupation and became known for aggressive statements on social media.
Mr Stremousov, who was Ukrainian, was wanted for treason by the Ukrainian police.
Kherson’s Russian-appointed governor Vladimir Saldo said his deputy had been killed, adding that the dead official had left behind five children and had a sixth on the way.
Russian President Vladimir Putin later issued a decree posthumously awarding him the Order of Courage, a prestigious state medal.
Interfax news agency quoted officials as saying the crash happened on a road between Kherson city and Armyansk, a town to the south-east in Russian-annexed Crimea.
Vladimir Rogov, a Moscow-installed official in neighbouring Zaporizhzhia region, said Mr Stremousov died when his vehicle tried to avoid a lorry driver who made “a dangerous manoeuvre”.
“There was simply no chance of surviving such a catastrophe,” Rogov said on Telegram, posting photos of a destroyed vehicle by a roadside.
“Kirill’s departure is a very big loss for all of us,” he said.
Hours after the reports of Mr Stremousov’s death, Russian Defence Ministry Sergey Shoygu ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from the western bank of the Dnipro river, meaning they are leaving Kherson city.
The Russian forces are hoping to defend the eastern bank as Ukrainian troops stage a counter-offensive.
Kherson, the only Ukrainian regional centre captured by Russian troops after the February invasion, lies on the western bank.
Mr Stremousov was well known on social media for his daily addresses to the people of Kherson, often talking about news from the frontline.
The BBC’s Tim Whewell, who interviewed him for the Crossing Continents programme, describes him as a colourful character who seemed to love publicity and often appeared in front of the camera unshaven and in casual clothes.
In recent weeks, he had urged civilians to cross the river in the face of the Ukrainian advance. Ukraine accuses Russia of forcibly deporting local residents.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of the Crimea port city of Sevastopol, described Mr Stremousov as “a real patriot of Russia, brave and fearless… it’s an irreplaceable loss”.
Several Russian-appointed officials in occupied Ukraine have been killed or injured in attacks.
Ukrainian forces continued their advance on Wednesday, with reports of heavy fighting around the town of Snihurivka, a strategic town to the north-east of Kherson.
Meanwhile, images seen by Reuters news agency showed a key bridge over the Inhulets river at Darivka, east of Kherson, had collapsed into the water.
It was unclear how the bridge was destroyed, although there was speculation it might have been blown up by retreating Russian troops.