A woman has been arrested in Russia on suspicion of delivering the bomb that killed a prominent pro-war Russian military blogger in a cafe in central St Petersburg on Sunday.
According to Russian authorities, Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was killed by a bomb blast while hosting a discussion with other pro-war commentators at a cafe on the banks of the Neva River in the historic heart of St Petersburg.
According to Russian media, the bomb was hidden in a bust of the blogger that the suspect had given him as a gift moments before the explosion, which injured more than 30 people.
A video circulated in Russian media showing Tatarsky, microphone in hand, being presented with a statue of a helmeted soldier. According to the report, the explosion happened minutes later.
Russian police said they had identified a woman named Darya Trepova as the suspect, and that she was apprehended in an apartment in St Petersburg following a search on Monday morning. According to RBK news, the attack was “carefully planned in advance by several people.”
Tatarsky, who had over 560,000 Telegram followers, was one of the country’s most influential military bloggers.
He became one of Russia’s most vocal critics of the defense ministry in the last year for its inability to achieve military gains in Ukraine, and he frequently traveled with Russian troops on the frontlines.
In one instance, he called for a tribunal to investigate Russia’s military leadership, referring to Moscow’s top officers as “untrained idiots.”
He was also present at a Kremlin ceremony last September during which Vladimir Putin declared Russia’s annexation of four partially occupied regions of Ukraine, a move widely condemned by the international community.
“We’ll conquer everyone, we’ll kill everyone, we’ll loot whoever we need to, and everything will be just as we like it,” Tatarsky said in a video message recorded at the ceremony.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the explosion.
The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, appeared to blame Ukraine, saying Tatarsky’s activities “have won him the hatred of the Kyiv regime” and that he and other Russian military bloggers had long faced Ukrainian threats.
However, the head of the Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in an audio message that he would “not blame the Kyiv regime” for it. “I believe it is the work of a group of radicals unaffiliated with any government,” he said in a statement. Prigozhin also stated that the cafe where the incident occurred previously belonged to him.
According to a senior Ukrainian government official, the explosion that killed Tatarsky was part of an internal conflict. “Spiders are eating each other in a jar,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.
“The question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political struggle was a matter of time.”
Tatarsky’s death is the second killing on Russian territory of a prominent pro-war figure.
Last August, Darya Dugina, the daughter of an ultra-nationalist Russian ideologue, was killed when a bomb blew up the Toyota Land Cruiser she was driving. Russia has accused Ukraine’s intelligence services of carrying out the killing but Ukraine denies involvement.