Russian Emergency Situations Ministry stand at the side of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, April 2, 2023. An explosion tore through a cafe in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on Sunday, and preliminary reports suggested a prominent military blogger was killed and more than a dozen people were injured. (AP Photo)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian police on Monday were searching for a woman suspected of delivering a bomb that killed a well-known military blogger who fervently supported Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
Russian officials said Vladlen Tatarsky, 40, was killed Sunday as he was leading a discussion at a cafe on the banks of the Neva River in the historic heart of St. Petersburg. Over 30 people were wounded by the blast, and 10 of them remain in grave condition, according to the authorities.
Russian news reports said the bomb was hidden in a bust of the blogger that the suspect had given to him as a gift just before the explosion.
The Russian Interior Ministry identified the suspect as Darya Tryopova, a 26-year-old St. Petersburg resident who had been previously detained for taking part in anti-war rallies. The Interfax news agency reported her arrest late Sunday, but later said that she was on the run while her mother and sister were summoned for questioning.
The Interior Ministry put Tryopova on the wanted list Monday.
Witnesses said that the suspect asked questions and exchanged remarks with Tatarsky during the discussion. One witness, Alisa Smotrova, said the woman told Tatarsky that she had made a bust of the blogger but that guards asked her to leave it at the door, suspecting it could be a bomb. They joked and laughed, and then she went to the door, grabbed the bust and presented it to Tatarsky.
A video showed Tatarsky making jokes about the bust and putting it on the table next to him just before the explosion.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, the state’s top criminal investigation agency, opened a probe on charges of murder.
No one publicly claimed responsibility, but military bloggers and patriotic commentators immediately blamed Ukraine for the attack and compared the bombing to last August’s assassination of nationalist TV commentator Darya Dugina, who was killed when a remotely controlled explosive device planted in her SUV blew up as she was driving on the outskirts of Moscow.
Russian authorities blamed Ukraine’s military intelligence for Dugina’s death, but Kyiv denied involvement.
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 won him the hatred of the Kyiv regime” and noted that he and other Russian military bloggers have long faced Ukrainian threats.
Since the fighting in Ukraine began Feb. 24, 2022, Ukrainian authorities have refrained from claiming responsibility for various fires, explosions and apparent assassinations in Russia. At the same time, officials in Kyiv have jubilantly greeted such events and insisted on Ukraine’s right to launch attacks in Russia.
A top Ukrainian government official cast the explosion that killed Tatarsky as part of internal turmoil.
“Spiders are eating each other in a jar,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote in English on Twitter late Sunday. “Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time.”
Tatarsky, who had filed regular reports from Ukraine, was the pen name for Maxim Fomin, who had accumulated more than 560,000 followers on his Telegram messaging app channel.
Born in the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, 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 from custody after a Russia-backed separatist rebellion engulfed the Donbas in 2014, weeks after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Then he joined separatist rebels and fought on the front line before turning to blogging.