Thug, liar, Stalin fan: This is the "Gauleiter" of Cherson

Kirill Stremousov has been known in Kherson for years as a pro-Russian agitator.

Thug, liar, Stalin fan: This is the "Gauleiter" of Cherson

Kirill Stremousov has been known in Kherson for years as a pro-Russian agitator. He spreads conspiracy theories, organizes anti-Ukrainian protests, and beats up opponents. When the Russians invade, Stremousow has his moment of glory. But now many of his comrades-in-arms are dead and Ukraine wants to recapture the city - the "Gauleiter" flees to a luxury hotel in Russia.

When Kirill Stremousov announced on Russian television last Monday that he would put referendum preparations in the Ukrainian region of Cherson on hold, the deputy head of the occupation government admitted what he himself had described as a fake a few days earlier. The Ukrainian offensive in the south of the country is underway - and it's apparently already having an effect.

The preparations for the vote on whether the region belongs to Russia have been halted for the time being, says the Ukrainian collaborator. The background is the security situation. Then he gives an example: the important Antonivka Bridge was so badly damaged by the Ukrainian attacks that car traffic was no longer possible there.

At the same time, Stremousov only turned to the residents of the region at the end of August and assured them that everything was fine. "There are no problems. Nobody is attacking us. The sky is peaceful. God is with us," he said in a video address he published on Telegram. He points to the sky in the background while standing in front of a window.

This sky really looks "peaceful" because it is the one over Voronezh, a major Russian city almost 1000 kilometers from embattled Cherson. The collaborator filmed his speech in a five-star hotel, as activists and journalists found out from the city panorama in the background. Stremousov later spoke of a "business trip through Russian cities," but one thing is certain: during the fighting for Cherson, the city's "Gauleiter," as the local media called him, was not on site.

Stremousov's superior, Volodymyr Saldo, isn't there either, but for a different reason. The head of the military administration deployed by Russia was put into an artificial coma in early August after suspected poisoning and flown to a Moscow hospital. Nothing has been heard from him since then.

The alleged assassination attempt on Saldo is not an isolated case. In Kherson Oblast alone, at least seven high-ranking officials from the occupying administration have been killed in recent months. Several other collaborators survived the attacks and were injured. It should come as no surprise that Stremouzov, in view of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, prefers a luxury hotel in safe Voronezh to his official residence in occupied Cherson. Especially since the defector is known as one of Russia's greatest friends in the region. The activist has been organizing pro-Russian demonstrations for years and has publicly agitated against Ukrainian politicians.

Before the war, Stremouzov described himself as a journalist and professed an eccentric belief system based on a mixture of the extreme right-wing version of orthodoxy and the esoteric "concept of public safety". This is a conspiracy theory popular with Russian right-wing extremists. It is based on the notion of the existence of a secret, mostly Jewish, world power opposed to Russian civilization. According to local media reports, the followers of this movement in Cherson attracted attention after the Maidan revolution in 2014 - they organized pro-Russian demonstrations and repeatedly attacked city residents.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Stremouzov was one of the organizers of protests against quarantine restrictions. On his YouTube channel, whose profile picture is a photo of Stalin, he published videos in which he accuses the authorities of deliberately spreading Covid-19 and repeatedly speaks of the alleged existence of "US biolaboratories" in Ukraine - a paperless one Lies that the Kremlin used to justify the invasion of Ukraine, among other things. In 2020, Stremouzov ran for mayor of Kherson, but received only 1.3 percent of the vote.

In previous years, the pro-Russian activist made negative headlines several times. In 2017, he punched a police officer in the city administration building. A year later, he injured a security guard at a public beach with a pistol. He had the argument filmed and later published the video on YouTube. He also attracted attention with several other attacks on Ukrainian politicians and officials. The "Russian nationalist with a Ukrainian passport" always got away with it, as the Ukrainian political scientist Vladimir Molchanov explained in a report on Radio Liberty. The expert explains this reluctance on the part of the police with Stremouzov's connections to important pro-Russian politicians.

In March 2022, a month after taking the city of Kherson, the Russians declared Stremouzov head of the "civil-military administration" of the oblast of the same name - the occupiers could hardly have imagined a better candidacy. A few weeks later, the grateful collaborator announced a letter to the Kremlin asking that the region be "attached" to Russia even without a referendum. "Kherson wants to go to Russia," said the 45-year-old at the time. For him personally, his wish has apparently come true - in a five-star hotel in Voronezh. As for his city, given the Ukrainian offensive, the annexation he longs for is a long way off.

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