The Russian-installed deputy governor of Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, has been killed, Russian state media has said.
They quoted the regional governor’s press service as saying he died in a car crash.
MrStremousov, 45, was appointed to his job two months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He was one of the most prominent proponents of the Russian occupation and became known for aggressive statements on social media. He was wanted for treason by the Ukrainian police. Many Russian-appointed officials in occupied Ukraine have been targeted in attacks.
Kherson, the only Ukrainian regional centre captured by Russian troops after the February invasion, is being targeted by a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
In recent days, MrStremousov had been urging civilians to leave the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in the face of the Ukrainian advance, amid indications that Russian forces may be abandoning the city.
Ukraine accuses Russia of forcibly deporting local residents. Ukrainian forces are closing in on Kherson, while Russian forces are building up defences inside it.
Both sides see the city, in the south of the country, as important to control. However, military experts say a battle for it could prove very costly. Before the war, Kherson had a population of about 380,000.
It is on the banks of the Dnipro River, near the Black Sea coast. It is also close to the Crimean peninsula – a part of Ukraine which Russia annexed in 2014 and which contains a number of its military bases.
“Kherson is a gateway to Crimea,” says Marina Miron, researcher in defence studies at Kings College, London. “Recapturing it would pave the way to reconquering Crimea, which Ukraine aims to do in this war.”
Kherson’s location is also important, says Forbes Mackenzie, a former British Army intelligence officer and chief executive of Mackenzie Intelligence Services. “Getting control of the Dnipro River is important because it runs right into the centre of Ukraine,” he says.
Kherson is the only one of Ukraine’s regional capitals to have fallen to Russian forces.
Russia took it in early March and recently declared it had annexed the Kherson region, along with three other regions in Ukraine. -BBC