Russian Woman Accused of Killing Pro-War Blogger With Boobytrapped Gift Is Arrested

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

A suspect has been detained in connection with a bombing that killed a notorious pro-Russia military blogger in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

Vladlen Tatarsky died in the blast as he gave a talk at the Street Food Bar #1 Cafe. According to a source cited by Russian state media, Tatarsky—real name Maxim Fomin—had been handed a statue as a gift that may have contained the explosive device. The figurine was reportedly designed to look like the Ukraine war hardliner.

Thirty-two people were also injured in the explosion.

On Monday, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced the arrest of Daria Trepova in connection with the attack. Trepova, 26, had earlier been placed on the Russian Interior Ministry’s wanted list as a murder investigation was opened. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee says it has established that the bombing was planned by “Ukrainian special services” and involved people “collaborating with the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation.”

According to Russia’s RBC, Trepova had previously taken part in an anti-war rally in St. Petersburg in February 2022 and had been arrested for 10 days as a result. Sources cited by the outlet claimed investigators haven’t ruled out the possibility that Trepova may have been “used to commit a terrorist act” and “might not have guessed that the figurine contained an explosive device.”

Dmitry Rylov, Trepova’s husband, told SVTV News that his wife was innocent. “I believe my wife was framed,” Rylov reportedly said, though he did not say by whom. “I’m pretty sure she would never have been able to do something like that on her own. Yes, Daria and I really do not support the war in Ukraine, but we believe that such actions are unacceptable. I am 100 per ent sure that she would never have agreed to this if she had known,” Rylov added.

RBC also claimed that Trepova had previously corresponded with Tatarsky and had attended other events in which he had participated. In an earlier report, witnesses to the bombing said a woman who introduced herself as “Anastasia” handed the statue to the event’s host, who in turn gave it to Tatarsky.

“She spoke about herself, said that her name was Anastasia, that at some other meeting she gave him either postcards or drawings. He remembered her,” witness Nikolai Mamonov, who said he was sitting at the third table from the stage in the cafe, said. He added that after the explosion, “Everyone ran to the exit in a crowd” and “everyone was screaming.”

The bar where the deadly blast took place was once owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin—the founder of the Wagner mercenary group currently attempting to seize control of the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. In a video late Sunday, Prigozhin claimed the bitterly contested town was now “legally” under Russian control as he purportedly raised a Russian flag bearing the words “in good memory to Vladlen Tatarsky” at Bakhmut’s city hall.

Before his death, Tatarsky had amassed nearly 600,000 followers on Telegram for his extreme advocacy for the invasion of Ukraine. He had even previously criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military commanders for failures during the illegal war. Among his most infamous comments was a remark he made in the Kremlin in September as Russia illegally annexed four regions of Ukraine.

“I congratulate everyone, everyone who waited till this moment,” he said. “We will defeat everyone, we will kill everyone, we will rob everyone we need. Everything will be as we like.”

No one has yet claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bombing. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter that it was only a “question of when domestic terrorism” would become part of internal political conflict in Russia, adding: “Spiders are eating each other in a jar.”

Tatarsky’s death comes after the August killing of Darya Dugina—the daughter of Russian propagandist and Putin’s “spiritual adviser” Alexander Dugin. Dugina, 29, was killed in a car bomb in Moscow that was suspected to have been intended for her father, with the Russian Federal Security Service also blaming Ukrainian special services for the attack.

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