Russia blames Ukraine, arrests suspect in killing of war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky

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Russian authorities said Monday they had arrested a suspect and concluded that Ukraine worked with backers of a jailed opposition leader to carry out the bombing attack that killed one of the country’s most prominent military bloggers.

Vladlen Tatarsky, an outspoken supporter of the war who helped shape the Kremlin’s anti-Ukrainian narrative, was killed in an explosion Sunday night as he held an event at a cafe in the center of St. Petersburg. The blast left more than 30 people injured. 

The killing of Tatarsky, 40, left Russia’s pro-war establishment shaken and demanding retribution, as authorities moved swiftly to assign blame. Officials in Kyiv and Western military analysts suggested that the incident could have been the result of internal splits.

The Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement early Monday that it had arrested a woman by the name of Daria Trepova, 26, in connection with Tatarsky’s death.

Woman accused of St. Petersburg bombing on April 2, 2023.
Daria Trepova.Russian Interior Ministry / AFP – Getty Images

A release from the committee did not share any evidence linking Trepova to the incident, or any details about who she is, with the spokesman only saying that investigators are working with Trepova to establish a motive. 

Shortly after, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said that Ukraine’s security services were behind the blast. It also accused “agents” working with jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption organization of being involved.

The counterterrorism agency said Trepova, who had hours earlier been placed on a wanted list, was a supporter of Navalny. 

Neither agency provided any evidence for the involvement of Ukraine or Navalny’s backers in the explosion. Kyiv did not claim responsibility for the incident, but hinted that it could have been a case of “domestic terrorism.”

The arrest comes after Russian state media reported Sunday that a young woman allegedly handed Tatarsky a bust of himself, containing explosives, shortly before the blast. 

Tatarsky’s death, which has dominated the headlines in Russia, highlights the prominence and near celebrity status of military bloggers in a country where independent media has been all but eradicated and the Kremlin tightly controls the war narrative.

Russian media reported that Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, was born in Ukraine but fought on the side of pro-Russian proxies since 2014. After Moscow launched its full-scale invasion last year, he gained fame for his nightly reports from the front lines in Ukraine and analysis of Moscow’s war strategy.

He had amassed more than half a million followers on Telegram, a popular messaging app in Russia on which he shared his videos and thoughts.

Tatarsky was often critical of how Russia’s top military brass was handling the war, which he ardently supported. His last post on Telegram criticized Russian forces for not having the same drone munition capabilities as the Ukrainians as Kyiv is planning an offensive.

Known for his brash and often expletive-laden language, he made an appearance at the Kremlin event dedicated to Russia’s illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions last year. There, he recorded a video saying: “We’ll defeat everybody, kill everybody, rob everybody we need to. It will all be the way we like it.”

No one has claimed responsibility for Tatarsky’s death, though Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakhorova quickly pointed the finger at Kyiv and some pro-war hawks urged Moscow to avenge him. 

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the influential owner of the Wagner mercenary group fighting in eastern Ukraine, said he had owned the cafe where the blast took place and handed it over to a patriotic movement for seminars. He called Tatarsky’s death a “tragedy,” but cautioned against blaming Kyiv for it — adding that it was likely a “group of radicals” not linked to the Ukrainian government.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, tweeted Sunday suggesting that “domestic terrorism” was to blame. “Spiders are eating each other in a jar,” he added.



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