Russia To Probe Death Of Top Russian Official In Ukraine

The Russian Government has stated its intention to launch an investigation into the shooting of a top Russian agricultural official in the Kherson region. Oleksiy Kovalyov, who was the deputy chairman for agriculture in the military-civil administration of the Kherson region, died from a gunshot wound at his home on Sunday. The assassination of a top-level Russian official in occupied Ukrainian territory is extremely alarming for Moscow, as it demonstrates the low level of support from ordinary Ukrainians in the region.

Oleksiy Kovalyov (sometimes recognized as Aleksei Kovalev) was elected as an official in the Kherson region in Ukraine in 2019 through a democratic election. He served under President Volodymyr Zelensky until February 2022. During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kovalyov changed his allegiance, and instead decided to ally with the Russian military who were occupying the region. Some Ukrainians saw him as a traitor and were likely furious regarding his disloyalty. This resulted in Kovalyov being targeted in an assassination attempt in June 2022, although he survived this initial attack. He was not so fortunate in the assassination last week, as both he and his girlfriend were found dead in their residence.

Located in southern Ukraine, Kherson was the first major Ukrainian city to be occupied by Russian forces. The city was invaded on March 2, 2022, and the Russian Government immediately established the Kherson military-civilian administration, a governmental body created to control the region. In May, the Russian government announced plans to hold a referendum in Kherson Oblast and in neighbouring Zaporizhzhia Oblast for local citizens to decide whether they would like to be absorbed into the Russian Federation. The Kremlin is reportedly considering holding the referendum on September 1, 2022.

Since the initial invasion, there have been many efforts from the Russian side to “Russianize” Kherson Oblast and other areas in eastern Ukraine. For example, the Russian government has implemented changes to the curriculum of many schools, essentially rewriting the history of Ukraine and Russia. In addition, the official currency is now the Russian rouble, and the city has now adopted a new coat of arms based on the coat of arms Kherson once had under the Russian Empire.

In late August 2022, the Ukrainian military began a counteroffensive in Southeastern Ukraine with the goal of taking back Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Mykolaiv Oblasts, which have all been under Russian occupation. On August 29th, President Zelensky announced that the Ukrainian military had begun a counterattack in the southern region. This was further corroborated by Operation Command South in the Ukrainian military and by the Ukrainian Parliament.