Pro-Russian officials ‘killed’ in Kherson ahead of offensive in Ukraine

Ukrainian partisans appear to have launched a campaign of assassinations of pro-Russian officials in occupied Kherson ahead of a planned offensive to retake the region.

On Saturday, Vitaly Gur, the Moscow-installed deputy head of the city of Nova Kakhovka, near Kherson, was shot as he stepped out of his apartment building. According to Russian media, he died on the way to the hospital in Crimea.

Investigators reportedly found discarded bullet casings from a Makarov semi-automatic pistol near Gur’s home. The reliable Makarov pistol was the standard weapon for the Soviet army, KGB agents and police.

“He has died, as far as I know,” said Vladimir Leontiev, head of the Kherson region’s pro-Russian collaborator. “He was in the hospital. Military doctors tried to save his life.”

Nova Kakhovka, a town of about 45,000 people on the south bank of the Dnipro River, is a vital hub for Russian efforts to supply the city of Kherson, 55 miles downstream on the north bank of the river.

Ukrainians step up attacks on pro-Russians

It comes a day after the city’s pro-Russian mayor suddenly became so ill that he had to be placed in an artificial coma. Vladimir Saldo was sent to Crimea and later flown to the Sklifosovsky Emergency Research Institute in Moscow for toxicology tests.

Russian news reports differed on what suffered Mr. Saldo. Some reported that he had suffered a stroke, others that he was ill with Covid. He was poisoned, according to opposition media.

In recent months, saboteurs and assassins have stepped up their attacks in the Kherson region.

In June, the head of the prison service and a senior pro-Russian civil government official were killed by car bombs. In July, a bomb blew up a car with two police officers inside, reportedly killing one.

The killings come as Ukraine mounts an offensive to retake the strategic region. Russian troops conquered the area adjacent to Crimea without a fight in the first few days of the war.

Fighting has stalled in Donbas, formerly the focus. Instead, the British Ministry of Defense said efforts had shifted south, where the war was entering a “new phase” along a 225-mile frontline.

There, Ukrainian troops stormed bridges over the Dnipro River, vital to Russia’s supply lines to the city of Kherson. To counter this, Russia has sent thousands of extra soldiers as reinforcements.

“Long convoys of Russian military trucks, tanks, towed artillery and other weapons continue to move out of the Donbas region of Ukraine and head southwest,” the defense ministry said.

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