An explosion at a cafe in Russia's second-largest city of Saint Petersburg has killed a prominent pro-Kremlin military blogger and injured 25 others.
Russian authorities have said "an unidentified explosive device" on Sunday evening at the Street Food Bar No. 1 café - café – reportedly belonging to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin – located along the Neva river not far from the historic city centre.
Police were called to the scene at 6:13 pm (1513 GMT).
A source tells Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky (real name Maxim Fomin) has been killed by a blast in a cafe in St Petersburg where he was giving a talk— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) April 2, 2023
He previously said Ukrainians were mentally ill Russians https://t.co/vr1fYWFxvu pic.twitter.com/oN0Gv0TCHS
The Russian interior ministry said: "One person was killed in the incident. He was military correspondent Vladlen Tatarsky.”
The health ministry said that a total of 25 people were injured in the blast, 24 of whom were taken to hospital. Six of the injured were said to be in serious condition.
A group called Cyber Front Z, which refers to itself on social media as "Russia's information troops", said it had hired out the cafe for the evening. A local media outlet, Fontanka, said there were at least 100 people at the event.
A murder investigation has been launched.
Who is Vladlen Tatarsky?
Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, has more than 500,000 followers on Telegram and has been a strong and hugely vocal advocate of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
He made his name early in the operation by publishing videos analyzing the military situation on the ground and offering advice for mobilized troops, according to TASS.
"We will defeat everyone, we will kill everyone, we will rob everyone. Everything will be as we like": this video was recorded by the pro-Kremlin blogger Vladlen Tatarsky from the Kremlin hall. pic.twitter.com/YU8R7Dl0fI— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) September 30, 2022
The 40-year-old came from the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, which Russia claims to have annexed, and which is currently mostly held by Russian troops.
How has Ukraine reacted to the attack?
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak, suggested the attack was an act of domestic terrorism carried out by Russians opposed to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, adding it was “only a matter of time” and like the “breakthrough of a ripe abscess.”
He added: “It begins in RF... Spiders are eating each other in a jar.”
It begins in RF... Spiders are eating each other in a jar. Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time, as breakthrough of ripe abscess. Irreversible processes and Troubles 2.0. await RF. While we will watch.— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) April 2, 2023
In its daily assessment on Sunday, the Institute for the Study of War said the “assassination at Prigozhin’s bar is likely part of a larger pattern of escalating Russian internal conflicts involving Prigozhin and Wagner.”
It added: “Fomin had attended another event earlier in the day without incident, so it appears that the attack was deliberately staged in a space owned by Prigozhin.
“Fomin’s assassination may have been intended as a warning to Prigozhin, who has been increasingly questioning core Kremlin talking points about the war in Ukraine and even obliquely signaling an interest in the Russian presidency, whether in competition with Putin or as his successor.”
Do we know who carried out the attack?
UPDATE: Russian investigators said Monday they have detained a suspect over a bomb blast in a cafe in Russia's second city that killed a top military blogger and supporter of Russia's campaign in Ukraine.
"Darya Trepova has been detained on suspicion of involvement in the explosion in a cafe in St Petersburg," Russia's Investigative Committee said on Telegram, following the attack on Sunday.
TASS news agency earlier quoted a law enforcement source as saying the blast was "caused by an improvised explosive device hidden inside a statue given to Tatarsky as a gift".
The Ria Novosti agency, quoting a source close to the inquiry, said "a girl" had supposedly dropped off a package with a "figurine" inside intended for the blogger.
"She gave it to him... and all of a sudden there was an explosion," Alissa Smotrova, a woman who was at the cafe, told AFP. "There was blood and pieces of glass..."
Another source told Ria Novosti that Tatarsky "knew" the suspected deliverer of the package, and that they had crossed paths at other "events," without giving further details.
On Monday morning, Wagner Group leader Prigozhin released a statement critical of Russian investigators. He says they are wrong to blame Ukraine - he believes a “group of [Russian] radicals” committed the “terrorist attack.” This was reported by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Telegram.
How has the Kremlin responded to the attack?
Russia's foreign ministry on Sunday paid tribute to Tatarsky, saying bloggers like him are “defenders of the truth".
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested Ukraine was behind the attack, saying: "Russian journalists constantly feel the threat of reprisals from the Kyiv regime. It is thanks to Russian war correspondents that the world sees true, operational images and finds out what is happening in Ukraine.”
Tatarsky was "dangerous" for Ukraine "but bravely went on until the end, fulfilling his duty," she added.
On Monday afternoon, Russia alleged on Monday the "terrorist attack" that killed a top military blogger the day before was orchestrated by Ukraine with the help of supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
"The terrorist attack was planned by Ukrainian security services with the help of agents working with the so-called Anti-Corruption Foundation," Russia's anti-terror committee said, referring to Navalny's banned organisation.
A spokeswoman for Navalny's foundation rejected the accusation. "Alexei will soon be on trial for extremism. He is facing 35 years. The Kremlin thought: 'It's great to be able to add the terrorism charge'," Kira Yarmysh said.
Could Ukraine have been behind the attack?
There is currently no evidence to suggest this is the case and such accusations have been made before.
In August 2022, Russia's FSB security services accused Ukraine of being behind a car bombing outside Moscow that killed the daughter of hard-line Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin – charges denied by Kyiv.
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Comments ( 1)
The sophistication and effectiveness of the bomb that killed Tartarsky clearly points to Putin.
In contrast, Ukrainian agent’s bombs have generally failed to kill their intended targets in occupied territories.