Suspect Arrested in Death of Russian Military Blogger

Vladlen Tatarsky, 40, was killed in an explosion on Sunday while leading a discussion in a cafe on the banks of the Neva River in the historic heart of St. Petersburg.

More than 30 people were injured in the blast, and 10 of them remain in serious condition, according to authorities.

Russian news reports said the bomb was hidden in a bust of the blogger that the suspect had given him as a gift just before the explosion.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the main state criminal investigation agency, said Darya Tryopova was arrested on suspicion of involvement in Tatarsky’s murder.

Russia Coffee Explosion scene
A suspect has been arrested for the incident (AP)

Tryopova is a 26-year-old St. Petersburg resident who had previously been detained for participating in anti-war demonstrations.

The Interfax news agency initially reported her arrest on Sunday night, but later said she was on the run while her mother and sister were summoned for questioning. The Interior Ministry had put Tryopova on the wanted list on Monday.

Witnesses said the suspect asked questions and exchanged comments with Tatarsky during the discussion.

A witness, Alisa Smotrova, said the woman told Tatarsky that she had made a bust of the blogger but that the guards had asked her to leave it at the door, suspecting it might be a bomb.

They joked and laughed, and then she went to the door, grabbed the bust and presented it to Mr. Tatarsky.

A video shows Tatarsky making jokes about the bust and placing it on the table next to him just before the explosion.

The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened a murder investigation.

Russia Coffee Explosion scene
Vladlen Tatarsky, pictured in front of a projection of an image of himself, just before the fatal explosion (AP)

No one has publicly claimed responsibility, but military bloggers and patriotic commentators immediately blamed Ukraine for the attack, comparing the attack to the assassination last August of nationalist television commentator Darya Dugina.

He was killed when a remote controlled explosive device attached to his truck went off as he was driving on the outskirts of Moscow.

Russian authorities blamed Ukrainian military intelligence for Ms. Dugina’s death, but kyiv denied any involvement.

Ms Dugina’s father, Alexander Dugin, a nationalist philosopher and political theorist who strongly supports the invasion of Ukraine, hailed Tatarsky as an “immortal” hero who died to save the Russian people.

Reacting to Tatarsky’s death, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said his activities “have earned him the hatred of the Kiev regime” and noted that he and other Russian military bloggers have faced Ukrainian threats for a long time.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian owner of the Wagner Group military contractor leading Moscow’s offensive in eastern Ukraine, said he owned the cafe and had given it to a patriotic group for meetings.

He said he doubted the involvement of the Ukrainian authorities in the attack, saying the attack was likely launched by a “group of radicals” unrelated to the Kiev government.

Russia Coffee Explosion scene
Tatarsky had blogged from the front lines in Ukraine (AP)

A senior Ukrainian government official called the explosion that killed Tatarsky part of internal unrest.

“The spiders are eating each other in a jar,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter on Sunday night in English.

“The question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political struggle was a matter of time.”

Vladlen Tatarsky was the pseudonym of Maxim Fomin, who had amassed more than 560,000 followers on his Telegram messaging app channel. He had filed regular reports from the Ukraine.

Born in the Donbas, the industrial heart of Ukraine, Mr. Tatarsky worked as a coal miner before starting a furniture business. When he ran into financial difficulties, he robbed a bank and was sentenced to prison.

He fled custody after a Russian-backed separatist rebellion engulfed the Donbas in 2014, weeks after Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.

Tatarsky joined the separatist rebels and fought on the front lines before turning to blogging.


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