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An Explosion in St. Petersburg Killed One of Russia’s Leading Pro-War Bloggers. Here’s Everything We Know

An explosion at a cafe in central St. Petersburg on Sunday killed one of Russia’s leading pro-Kremlin bloggers, according to Russia’s interior ministry.

Maxim Fomin—known by his pseudonym Vladlen Tatarsky—was a prominent military blogger whose vocal support of Russia’s war efforts had earned him as many as 560,000 followers on Telegram.

Tatarsky was conducting a meet and greet at the cafe on the bank of the Neva River, where he was the guest of a pro-war group called Cyber Front Z. A video shared by Mash, a Telegram channel linked to Russian law enforcement, showed Tatarsky being handed something minutes before the explosion.

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Russian authorities have since launched a murder investigation and detained a woman on suspicion of the attack, which also injured at least 32 people and left more than 10 people in serious condition, Russia’s health ministry reported.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the woman had previously been detained for her involvement in anti-war rallies.

As more information emerges, here’s what we know about the blast so far.

What caused the explosion in St. Petersburg?

Russia’s Investigative Committee for St. Petersburg said forensic experts were on the scene to identify what caused the explosion. The committee described the case as “murder by a publicly dangerous method.”

Russian media said a woman gifted Tatarsky with a box containing a bust of him, which they believe contained an explosive device that blew up. Cyber Front Z, which organized the event, said that their safety precautions for the high profile event “proved insufficient.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads the Wagner mercenary group fighting in eastern Ukraine, said he owned the cafe where the blast occured.

Who is Vladlen Tatarsky?

Tatarsky was born in Ukraine, according to Russian media, and has fought on the side of pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

Tatarsky gained notoriety as one of Russia’s most prominent nationalist military bloggers, issuing support for the war as well as criticism of military failures.

Tatarsky’s pseudonym hails from the protagonist of a Russian novel Generation “П” by Victor Pelevin. The story follows a failed Moscow creative in 1990s post-Soviet Russia amid widespread corruption under Boris Yeltsin’s leadership.

The pro-war blogger often traveled with Russian troops on the front line. He was also present at a Kerlin ceremony in September where Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed four Ukrainian regions in the southern and eastern portions of the country.

Speaking in a video message recorded during the ceremony, he said: “I congratulate everyone, everyone who waited till this moment. We will defeat everyone, we will kill everyone, we will rob everyone we need. Everything will be as we like,” he said.

What we know about Daria Trepova

A 26-year-old woman named Daria Trepova was identified as a suspect by Russia’s interior ministry and detained on Monday. According to Russian media outlet TASS, Trepova’s home in St. Petersburg was searched by law enforcement on Sunday and her mother and sister were reportedly questioned.

Court documents obtained by CNN show Trepova was previously arrested for participating in a rally when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

While Trepova’s husband Dmitry Rylov was a member of the opposition Libertarian Party of Russia, the political party issued a statement via Telegram denying any direct connection to Trepova herself.

Who is behind the attack?

While Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed Ukraine, saying that Tatarsky’s profile had “won him the hatred of the Kyiv regime,” other government officials said the attack was down to internal conflict.

“Spiders are eating each other in a jar,” tweeted Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian politician and adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky. “Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time, as breakthrough of ripe abscess.”

Wagner Group’s Prigozhin warned against blaming Kyiv for the blast—and that it was likely a “group of radicals” not linked to Ukraine.

The blast marks the second killing of a pro-war figure on Russian soil since the war in Ukraine began. Last September, Darya Dugina, the daughter of the ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin credited as the architect of the invasion, died when a bomb exploded in her vehicle.

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