Ukraine: Smoke billows from car fire in Kakhovka
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The Russian-installed head of a Ukrainian village in occupied territory has been assassinated after hidden explosives blew up his car while he was sitting in it.
Andrey Shtepa’s car was filmed engulfed in flames several metres high, with black smoke pouring from the exploded vehicle, as Russian media outlets reported the chief had been killed. Another person in his car, believed to be either his driver or a security guard, was also killed in the explosion. It is the second Russian-appointed chief to be killed in December after the deputy head of Berdyansk Oleg Boyko and his wife Lyudmila were both killed on Friday, September 16 in Zaporizhia Oblast in southeastern Ukraine.
Emergency services in Kherson Oblast told Russian media agency Tass that Shtepa died after “explosives were planted in the car”.
The dramatic footage of the incident showed the vehicle engulfed by orange flames in the middle of Kakhovka, which neighbours the village of Lyubimovka.
Shtepa was appointed by Russia as the head of the village after Putin’s forces occupied the territory in the early days of the conflict and later annexed the region in September.
Despite his authoritative role, several Ukrainian residents can be seen cycling and driving past Shtepa’s car as it burns, seemingly disinterested in saving the man and his colleague.
The emergency services in the region said: “Today Ukrainian terrorists attempted to attack the head of the village of Lyubimovka of the Kakhovsky municipal district, as a result of which he died.”
Shtepa was pronounced dead after the attack but the status of his colleague was unclear for several hours.
A later update confirmed the other person in the car had died as a result of their injuries.
Russian news outlets blamed the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service, which is an independent law enforcement agency for special military assignments. Ukraine has not claimed the attack, though it is uncommon for officials to do so.
A French freelance network called Red Card suggested Russia should “expect such attacks to increase over time”.
It is the second time in less than a week that a Russian-appointed regional head has assassinated.
The deputy head of Berdyansk Oleg Boyko and his wife Lyudmila were killed near their garage in southeastern Ukraine last Friday.
According to the chairman of the movement “We are with Russia”, Vladimir Rogov, which is a Russian-backed organisation in Zaporizhia, their deaths were the result of an assassination.
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Rogov said on Friday: “Law enforcement officers are asking citizens who have any information regarding the incident to promptly inform the police of the information they have.”
Boyko was the deputy head of Berdyansk’s military-civil administration for housing and communal services.
It comes as the number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine nears the 100,000 mark as the conflict enters its tenth month.
According to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, 99,740 Russian soldiers have been killed, with a further 299,220 wounded.
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