Odessa / Ukraine - November 26 2018: Protests of Ukrainian patriots near General Consulate of Russian Federation against aggression of Russia. Protester holding a flag of Ukraine

Pro-Kremlin Russian blogger killed in cafe bombing

An explosion tore through a St. Petersburg café, killing a well-known military blogger and supporter of the war in Ukraine. Russia blames Ukraine for orchestrating the bombing. A woman has been arrested, but what’s the real story?

Pro-war blogger killed in Russian café bombing

Vladlen Tatarsky, 40, a Russian military blogger who was stridently supportive of the war in Ukraine, was killed after a bomb ripped through a café in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

According to some reports, it is believed that the bomb was embedded inside a bust of the blogger that was given to him as a gift, the Associated Press reported. Tatarsky was meeting with members of the public when a woman presented him with a box that contained a bust of him that allegedly exploded.

Tatarsky was appearing as a guest with members of a patriotic, pro-war Russian group called Cyber Front Z, CNN reported.

At least 32 people were injured in the blast, with 10 in serious condition, according to a report by state media Ria Novosti, which cited the Russian Ministry of Health.

Tatarsky is the pen name for Maxim Fomin, who had accumulated more than 560,000 followers on his Telegram messaging app channel.

Officials said Tatarsky had led a discussion at the cafe on the banks of the Neva River, which is the historic heart of Russia’s second-largest city, AP News reported.

Cyber Front Z, who organized the event, said they had taken security precautions, but acknowledged their measures had “proved insufficient.”

Woman arrested as suspected bomber

Russian officials announced the arrest of a woman on Monday, alleging that she was responsible for carrying a bust of the blogger into the café that contained an embedded bomb, CBS News reported.

A witness said a woman identifying herself as Nastya had asked questions and exchanged remarks with Tatarsky during the discussion. According to the woman, she claims Nastya said she had made the bust of the blogger, but guards asked her to leave the art piece at the door, suspecting it could be a bomb. Nastya and Tatarsky then joked and laughed, according to the witness. She says Nastya then went to the door, retrieved the bust, and presented it to Tatarsky, who placed the statuette on a nearby table. The explosion followed.

Russian authorities announced they have arrested Darya Trepova, a 26-year-old St. Petersburg resident who was seen on video presenting Tatarsky with the bust.

Trepova is well known to authorities, having been detained by police last year for participating in a rally against the war on Feb. 24, 2022, the day of the invasion. Trepova spent 10 days in jail.

In a brief video released by the Interior Ministry, it shows Trepova allegedly telling a police officer she brought the statuette into the café. When asked by police who gave her the bust, Trepova told him she would explain it later, authorities said. Trepova allegedly told investigators she was asked to deliver the statuette, but did not know what was inside it, according to Russian media reports.

Russia blames Ukraine for the bombing

Russian authorities are now blaming Ukrainian intelligence for orchestrating the bombing that killed Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky at a St. Petersburg café on Sunday.

The National Anti-Terrorist Committee, the agency that coordinates counterterrorism operations in Russia, said the bombing was “planned by Ukrainian special services.”

The committee also claimed Trepova was an “active supporter” of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Navalny is the fiercest foe to the Kremlin, having previously exposed official corruption and organized massive anti-government protests. He is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence for fraud, which he has denounced as a political vendetta.