A police chief in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol has been killed in an apparent partisan attack.
Oleksandr Mishchenko, who defected to Russia after they seized the city, died when an improvised device exploded at the entrance to the block where he lived.
There have been reports of heightened Ukrainian partisan activity in the region in recent weeks.
Melitopol’s exiled mayor labeled the dead officer a traitor, claiming that he had “tricked his employees into becoming traitors.” It is unclear what the allegation means.
Melitopol is in Zaporizhzhia province, one of four regions that Russia claimed to have annexed last year following its invasion, despite only partially controlling them.
After Mariupol, Melitopol is the largest city on territory occupied by Russia since February 2022. The explosion occurred at 05:20 local time (02:20 GMT), injuring two policemen who were hospitalized, but one of them died later.
A video of the scene showed a crater next to the apartment building and nearby cars with broken windows.
Exiled Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov wrote on his Telegram channel about the killing, “The path of each collaborator is predictable: yesterday betrayal, today panic, tomorrow massacre.”
To that effect, Fedorov claimed that Mishchenko had been chief of the Priazovsky district police department before the invasion and had not only defected but also “tricked his employees into becoming traitors.”
In a later post, Fedorov named the second policeman as Yuryy Akimov, Mishchenko’s assistant and driver.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainska Pravda published a video that appeared to show a man with a disguised voice and features claiming responsibility for the blast.
The man said, “Sorry for the loud noise this morning, we were clearing the rubbish, in other words eliminating the Judas Oleksandr Mishchenko.” He went on to warn other collaborators that they faced a similar fate.
Volodymyr Rogov, a Russian-installed official in Zaporizhzhia region, said Mishchenko had several times been threatened by “terrorists” for “restoring peace to the region, preventing illegal acts and creating order in his native land.”
Last year, a number of Russian-installed officials were killed in attacks in occupied areas, including Zaporizhzhia region. One of them was Oleh Boyko, the deputy mayor of the city of Berdyansk, who died along with his wife in September in an apparent assassination.
The situation in Ukraine remains tense, with sporadic fighting and clashes continuing between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The latest attack on the police chief in Melitopol is likely to fuel further tensions and violence in the region.