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A woman has been detained by Russian police as a suspect in the assassination of a prominent Russian war blogger at a St. Petersburg cafe, while the Kremlin has alleged that the Ukrainian special services may have been involved in the planning of the bombing, which injured 32 people.

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Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s top state criminal investigation agency, said on April 3 that 26-year-old Darya Trepova was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the killing of Vladlen Tatarsky, the pen name of prominent blogger Maksim Fomin. Tatarsky is known for his support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Trepova has been described in Russian media as a Russian national and St. Petersburg resident who had been previously detained for taking part in anti-war rallies. The Interior Ministry earlier on April 3 named Trepova as a suspect in Tatarsky’s killing and added her to its wanted list.

Tatarsky was killed when an explosion tore through the cafe along the banks of the Neva River where he was leading a discussion.

Russian media have said that Tatarsky was meeting with attendees when a woman presented him with a box containing a small bust of him, which apparently exploded. A witness said in video remarks to the local publication Fontanka that a woman who had identified herself as Nastya had asked questions and exchanged remarks with Tatarsky during the event.

The witness said Nastya had told Tatarsky that she had made a bust of the blogger but had been told by security guards to leave it at the door because they suspected it was a bomb. Nastya then went to the door, retrieved the bust, and gave it to Tatarsky. After he placed the bust on a table, the explosion occurred, according to the witness.

REN-TV posted video taken by an eyewitness that appears to show Tatarsky receiving the bust.

Surveillance video from outside the cafe and posted on the Russian Telegram channel 112 showed what it said was the moment of the blast, which occurred at about 6:15 p.m. The video showed an explosion that blew out cafe windows, collapsed part of a large sunroom, and scattered debris onto the street.

The Russian state news agency TASS reported that the explosive device contained more than 200 grams of TNT.

Trepova allegedly fled the scene. Reports initially indicated that she was detained on April 2, but it was subsequently reported that her mother and sister had been summoned for questioning and that she was allegedly on the run.

Following her detention, the Interior Ministry posted a video of Trepova, possibly speaking under duress, telling an interrogator that she „brought the statuette there that exploded.“ When asked who had given her the bust, she replied that she would say „later.“

The news site Baza said that Trepova’s husband, identified as Dmitry Rylov, is also being sought. Rylov is believed to be a member of the Libertarian Party, which has said he has been abroad and had nothing to do with the incident.

The Street Food Bar No. 1 cafe where the explosion took place, located on the city’s central Vasilyevsky Island, was formerly owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin is a Kremlin-connected businessman who controls the Wagner mercenary group, a private force that is playing a prominent role in Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

Police officers stand guard at the scene of the explosion.

Police officers stand guard at the scene of the explosion.

Tatarsky was a well-known social media figure and supporter of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. His blog had about 500,000 subscribers and his appearance drew about 100 people to the cafe where he was killed. He fought alongside pro-Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where he was born, after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

During a ceremony in September hosted by President Vladimir Putin in celebration of Russia’s illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Tatarsky posted a video from inside the Kremlin saying: „We will defeat everyone, we will kill everyone, we will rob everyone as necessary. Just as we like it.“

He is widely considered by Ukrainian media to be a Kremlin propagandist. Pro-Kremlin media have accused Ukraine of being behind his death. No groups or individuals have claimed responsibility for the blast.

While the Russian Foreign Ministry said in response to Tatarsky’s death that his activities “had won him the hatred of the Kyiv regime,” Prigozhin said he doubted the attack was related to the Ukrainian government and was likely carried out by a „group of radicals.“

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee later claimed on April 3 that the attack was planned by Ukraine’s special services and by „agents“ allegedly collaborating with Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Navalny is a prominent Kremlin opponent who survived a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia in 2020 that he blames on Putin. The opposition politician and anti-corruption activist, who tried to run against Putin for the presidency in 2018 but was kept off the ballot, is currently serving a nine-year sentence for fraud that his supporters say is politically motivated.

Navalny has been an outspoken critic of Russia’s war against Ukraine, and his Anticorruption Foundation is banned as an „extremist“ organization.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, referring to the statement by the Anti-Terrorism Committee, said that there was evidence that „Ukrainian special services may be involved in the planning of this terrorist attack. And, of course, this is a terrorist attack.“

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak suggested that the assassination was part of an internal conflict in Russia.

“Spiders are eating each other in a jar,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter on April 2. “[The] question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time.“

Tatarky’s death marks the second assassination of a prominent advocate of Russia’s war against Ukraine. In August, nationalist TV commentator Darya Dugina was killed in a car bombing near Moscow.

Russian authorities blamed Ukrainian military intelligence for the death of Dugina, whose father is well-known Russian war supporter and idealogue Aleksandr Dugin. Kyiv denied involvement in Dungina’s death.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and TASS

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Artificial intelligence has reinterpreted this news for you.

A woman has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of Russian blogger Maksim Fomin, who supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Darya Trepova has been named as a suspect by the country’s top criminal investigation agency, the Investigative Committee, and is a 26-year-old Russian national and St Petersburg resident who has previously been detained for anti-war rallies. The bureau is also considering whether Ukrainian special services may have been involved. The question of responsibility for the killing has also seen accusations against pro-Kremlin businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin and Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

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