(Reuters) – A top Russian official in Ukraine was killed in a car crash on Wednesday in another blow to Moscow in the southern Kherson region amid an imminent withdrawal of Russian forces.
The death of Kirill Strimosov, deputy head of the local administration installed by Russia, was confirmed by its head, Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-backed acting governor of Kherson.
Strimosov went from an obscure blogger and a local politician before the Russian invasion on February 24 to become number two in what Ukraine says is the illegal occupation of Kherson it plans to overthrow by force.
The Kremlin said in a statement that President Vladimir Putin posthumously awarded Strimosov the Order of Courage, a prestigious official award.
A Russian official said the accident occurred after the driver of Strimosov’s car tried to avoid a truck that performed a dangerous maneuver.
Vladimir Rogov, from the neighboring Zaporizhzhya region, wrote on Telegram that the truck driver was to blame.
The Russian Information Agency (RIA) of Russia published a video of the Strimosov destroyer vehicle, which was in several parts. Blood stains could be seen on the road.
Strimosov was a very visible face on social media, posting pro-Moscow statements. And in the last hour, hours before his death, he denounced what he called Ukrainian “Nazis” and said that the Russian army was “completely in control” of the situation in the south.
Ukraine viewed him as a collaborator and traitor.
Strimosov’s death deepened the sense of chaos surrounding the defense of Kherson. Hours after the fatal incident, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered his forces to withdraw from the occupied Ukrainian city.
(Reuters reporting) Written by Mark Trevelyan Editing by Andrew Osborne, David Leungren, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Otis
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