The Russian-backed mayor of Kherson in Ukraine was poisoned by a chef who began working in his house just a day before, according to reports.
Vladimir Saldo reportedly fell ill on August 3, “his mind began to cloud and his fingertips went numb”, after eating food prepared by the chef, reported Russian opposition media.
The deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Kherson denied the reports which also claimed he was in a coma.
In a statement on Telegram, Kirill Stremousov said the reports were “part of Ukraine’s information war against Russia“, although he confirmed that Saldo was ill and said he was “resting”.
Mr Saldo was rushed to a hospital in Crimea after the alleged poisoning, where doctors put him into a coma and flew him to Moscow.
He is now reportedly on a ventilator in the Sklifosovsky Emergency Research Institute.
The Russian state-run broadcaster RT had previously reported that Saldo, who was appointed to be mayor after Russia occupied the region, was in a coma and on life support.
The area is part of a swathe of Ukraine that Russia has occupied, extending north and eastward from the annexed Crimean peninsula along the north shore of the Sea of Azov to the Russian border.
Ukraine has vowed to conduct a counteroffensive in Kherson. In June, a senior official in the Russian-backed administration was killed in a bomb blast for which his colleagues blamed Ukraine.
Assassins have targeted at least three senior regional officials including the deputy mayor of the town of Nova Khakhova, who was shot dead on Saturday.
Meanwhile, two more ships departed from Ukrainian Black Sea ports on Monday, taking the total to ten since the first ship sailed last week under a deal with Russia to unblock Ukrainian grain exports.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered the agreement last month after warnings the halt in grain shipments caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to severe food shortages and even outbreaks of famine in parts of the world.