The latest in a rising number of Kremlin-appointed officials to be assassinated as the Kremlin strives to tighten its hold on seized territory is a Russian proxy leader in command of a town in the occupied Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine who was killed by a car bomb.
According to Vladimir Rogov, a spokesman of the local Russian-proxy administration, Ivan Sushko, the leader of Mykhailivka in the Zaporizhzhia region, was blown up when a bomb hidden underneath the seat of his vehicle by unknown perpetrators exploded.
Sushko was taken to a hospital following the explosion in a severe condition, but he passed away there due to his injuries, according to a Telegram post by Rogov. Before being selected to govern Mykahilivka in April, Sushko reportedly made his income as a toastmaster at weddings and as Santa Claus.
His death came only one day after local officials claimed another Russian proxy leader survived a similar murder attempt.
Igor Telegin, the Russian-appointed deputy head of domestic policy for occupied Kherson, reportedly had injuries all over his body when a radio-controlled bomb was detonated near his car late Monday. He was then reportedly transferred to a hospital. Authorities in the area maintain that he is still “alive and well” and has “no issues.”
At least two further people chosen to lead the “new” Russian-controlled governments were recently slain. Local officials reported that Vitaly Gura, a representative in the Kherson area town of Nova Kakhovka, passed away on August 6 after being shot close to his residence. Another official in Russian-controlled Kherson, Dmitry Savluchenko, was killed in a car bombing in late June, which the Kremlin referred to as a “terrorist incident.”
Although Ukrainian authorities claim they believe an underground network is actively thwarting Russia’s takeover by removing Russian-backed officials one at a time, Russian proxy leaders have accused Ukrainian forces for the assassinations.
The most recent killing occurred precisely six months after Russia began its full-scale invasion, which unleashed destruction and airstrikes as Russian troops attempted but failed to seize the Ukrainian capital and impose new leadership. It also occurred as Ukrainians celebrated Independence Day and the U.S. announced the addition of nearly $3 billion in military aid.
“Half a year ago Russia declared war on us. On Feb. 24, all of Ukraine heard the explosions and shots. And on Aug. 24, the words Happy Independence Day were not meant to be heard. On Feb. 24, they told us, ‘you have no chance.’ On Aug. 24, we say, Happy Independence Day, Ukraine!” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech Wednesday.
“The enemy thought we would meet them with flowers and Champagne. Instead, they received funeral wreaths and Molotov cocktails.… The occupants believed a [Russian] parade would be held in the center of our capital within a few days. Today on [the main street] it’s possible see that parade…. Burned up, ruined and destroyed” Russian military equipment, Zelensky said.
Zelensky threatened to retake all of the region that Russian soldiers had occupied, promising “no concessions.”
“Don’t want your soldiers to die? Free our land. Don’t want your mothers to cry? Free our land,” he said.
In the meantime, Russia tried to downplay its military defeats in Ukraine over the Ukrainian holiday. At a meeting with defense officials, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu admitted a slowing in Moscow’s territorial expansion but insisted it was intentional in order to “avoid victims among civilians,” according to the TASS news agency.
Following its designation of the east of Ukraine as its new objective after realizing a full takeover had failed, Russian intelligence, according to British intelligence, has made “limited progress.”