One of Russia’s most prominent officials in Ukraine was killed in a car crash on Wednesday, a further blow to Moscow in the southern Kherson region amid an impending withdrawal of Russian forces.
The death of Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed local administration, was confirmed by his boss Vladimir Saldo, the Russia-backed acting governor of Kherson.
Stremousov went from being an obscure blogger and local politician before the Russian invasion on Feb. 24 to become the number two figure in what Ukraine says is the illegal occupation of Kherson which it plans to overturn by force.
President Vladimir Putin posthumously granted Stremousov the Order of Courage, a prestigious state award, the Kremlin said in a statement.
A Russian-installed official said the accident happened after the driver of Stremousov’s vehicle tried to avoid hitting a truck that had carried out a dangerous manoeuvre.
Vladimir Rogov, from the neighbouring Zaporizhzhia region, wrote on Telegram that the truck driver was to blame.
Russia’s RIA news agency published a video of Stremousov’s destroyed vehicle, which was in several parts. Bloodstains could be seen on the road.
Stremousov was a highly visible face on social media, pumping out pro-Moscow statements. In the most recent, hours before his death, he denounced what he called Ukrainian “Nazis” and said the Russian military was in “full control” of the situation in the south.
Ukraine viewed him as a collaborator and a traitor.
Stremousov’s death deepened the sense of disarray surrounding the defence of Kherson. Hours after the fatal crash, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered his troops to withdraw from the occupied Ukrainian city.