Russian-backed Kherson administration denies that its leader is in a coma

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Kherson region during Ukraine-Russia conflict

LONDON (Reuters) - The deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Ukraine's occupied Kherson region on Friday denied reports that the administration's head, Volodymyr Saldo, had suffered a stroke and 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".

The Russian state-run broadcaster RT had previously reported that Saldo, a former mayor of the city of Kherson who was appointed to head the region of the same name when Russian troops overran it in early March, was in a coma and on life support.

The region 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 said it will conduct a counteroffensive in Kherson region and has been carrying out strikes on Russian supply lines and ammunition dumps in the area. In June, a senior official in the Russian-backed administration was killed in a bomb blast for which his colleagues blamed Ukraine.

Moscow says it was forced to take control of parts of Ukraine to prevent persecution of Russian-speakers and defuse a Western threat to use Ukraine to threaten Russia's security.

Kyiv and its Western allies say these are baseless pretexts for an imperial-style land grab.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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