Pro-war Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky killed in St. Petersburg Bombing
April 4, 2023

A prominent pro-war Russian military blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky, also known by his real name Maxim Fomin, was killed in a blast at a cafe in central St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 2. The explosion also wounded more than 30 people, according to the Russian health ministry.

The explosion occurred during a public meeting where Tatarsky was presented with a statue of a helmeted soldier. A bomb was reportedly hidden in the statue and presented to him in a box as a gift. Videos posted on social media show the explosion and injured people on the street.

Tatarsky had over half a million followers on the messaging app Telegram and was one of Russia’s most influential military bloggers. He frequently traveled with Russian troops on the frontlines and emerged as one of the loudest critics of Russia’s defense ministry over the last year for its inability to achieve military gains in Ukraine.

Russia’s state investigative committee has opened a murder investigation, and a St. Petersburg woman was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the bombing. The woman previously had been detained for taking part in anti-war rallies, according to sources.

The incident has sparked accusations and blame from both Russia and Ukraine. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed 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, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner group, said he would “not blame the Kyiv regime” but a “group of radicals” instead.

Ukrainian government officials cast the explosion as part of internal turmoil as they believe that Russia is facing a security threat domestically while the Russian military is busy killing innocent Ukrainian civilians.

Tatarsky’s death marks 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 in a car bomb attack in Moscow. Russia has accused Ukraine’s intelligence services of carrying out the attack, but Ukraine has denied involvement.

The bloggers, who are frequently former veterans with contacts on the frontlines, often provide a rare insight into Russia’s real performance on the ground and are allowed a surprising amount of leeway to criticize the conduct of the war – although they rarely criticize Putin.

The deaths of Tatarsky and Dugina highlight the risks faced by those who publicly support the war effort in Russia and the potential for violent retribution.

The Russian government has yet to identify any suspects in Tatarsky’s killing or offer a motive, but the investigation is ongoing. The incident also reflects the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine, with both sides accusing the other of aggression and interference.

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