One of the most senior Russian-appointed officials in occupied Ukrainian territory has been killed, Russian officials and state news agencies said Wednesday.
The Russian-appointed deputy head of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, Kirill Stremousov, died in a road accident, the press secretary of the head of the region said, according to Russian news agency TASS.
Also on Wednesday, Russia ordered a retreat from the west bank of the Dnipro River across the Kherson region, a dramatic setback for Moscow in the face of recent Ukrainian advances.
Stremousov was killed in an accident on the highway between Kherson and Armyansk in Crimea, the Russian state media company Vesti (VGTRK) reported, citing the region’s health minister. Stremousov was 45 years old, according to Vesti.
His death was also announced by the Russian-appointed “head” of Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, who wrote in a statement on Telegram: “It is very hard for me to say that Kirill Stremousov died today. He died on the territory of the Kherson region, moving in a car that got into an accident.”
As deputy head of the Kherson region military administration, Stremousov was prominent in organizing and supporting the referendum on Kherson’s illegal annexation by Russia and more recently had been the driving force in the evacuation of civilians from the west bank in Kherson, as Ukrainian forces pushed toward the Dnipro.
On Tuesday, Stremousov said: “Most residents who decided to stay in Kherson are only now beginning to realize the gravity of the situation and my warnings.”
Stremousov frequently took to Telegram to describe Ukrainian officials and forces as “Nazis” and “fascists.” But he was also critical of missteps by the Russian military. He had blamed the military setbacks in Kherson on “incompetent commanders” who had not been held accountable for their mistakes.
Later on Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from the west bank of the Dnipro, Russian state media reported.
This would be the most significant military development in the war since Ukrainian forces swept through the northern Kharkiv region in September. Shoigu’s order came as Ukrainian forces make advances toward the city of Kherson from two directions.
Russian forces have also destroyed bridges across occupied parts of the Kherson region west of the Dnipro, a local Ukrainian official and Russian military analysts on Telegram reported earlier.