Russian officials and state media have reported the deputy governor of the Russian-occupied Kherson Region in Ukraine has died in a car crash. Ukrainian officials expressed their doubts about the reported death, which cannot be independently verified at this time, and which at least one official has said may have been staged.
On Wednesday, the Russian state-run TASS News Agency reported that Kirill Stremousov was killed in a road accident on Wednesday, citing the Russian-backed regional administration’s media office.
Stremousov was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s appointee to serve as deputy governor of the Russian-occupied Kherson and had been a proponent of Russia’s occupation of the territory.
While Putin-appointed Kherson Governor Vladimir Saldo reiterated the reports of his deputy’s death, Ukrainian officials are less certain Stremousov is actually dead, the BBC reported.
“Regarding the information spread by the occupiers and Russian sources regarding the death of collaborator Kirill Stremousov in an accident, so far we can neither confirm nor deny the information,” said Yuriy Sobolevskyi, first deputy head of the Ukrainian Kherson regional council, in a Telegram post reported by CNN.
Sobolevskyi said the Russian claim of Stremousov’s death “may be true, or it may be staged.”
Stremousov, who is Ukrainian, has been wanted by the Ukrainian government in Kyiv for treason.
Within hours of Russian media announcing Stremousov’s death, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly ordered Russian troops west of Ukraine’s Dnieper River to retreat back to the more heavily Russian-controlled east side. The city of Kherson lies on the west side of the Dnieper River, but much of the Kherson Oblast is on the east side.
Shoigu ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops west of the Dnieper amid concerns that Ukraine could let off a massive discharge of water from the Kakhovka Dam, potentially flooding parts of Kherson and making it difficult for pro-Russian forces in the city to retreat back to safety on the east side of the river.
If Stremousov were still alive and Ukraine did flood the Dnieper River, he could be cut off from escape and easier for Ukrainian forces to capture.