Vladlen Tatarsky: Woman arrested after Russian pro-war blogger killed in cafe blast

This video contains distressing images

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, ITV News' Neil Connery reports

Russia's Interior Ministry has published a video appearing to show a suspect in detention after a bomb killed a Russian military blogger - though she may be speaking under duress.

Vladlen Tatarsky, 40, died on Sunday as he was leading a discussion at the cafe on the banks of the Neva River in the historic heart of Russia's second-largest city, St Petersburg, officials said.

In the footage posted on Monday by the ministry, 26-year-old Darya Trepova was asked by an investigator if she "understand(s) what you were arrested for?"

Ms Trepova replied: "I would say, for being on the scene of the murder of Vladlen Tatarsky."

"I brought a statuette that exploded," she added.

ITV News was immediately unable to verify the conditions under which the video was shot and it could be that she was speaking under duress.

Mr Tatarsky, who had filed regular reports from Ukraine, was the pen name for Maxim Fomin.

He had accumulated more than 560,000 followers on his Telegram messaging app channel. Some 30 people were also wounded in the blast, Russia’s Health Ministry reported.

Earlier, video emerged of a woman holding a box which is believed to contain a bomb, concealed in a bust of the Russian military blogger who was later killed.

Video shows a woman carrying a box, believed to contain the bomb, walk past and then enter the cafe

The footage shows a blonde woman walking past a cafe in St Petersburg, where Mr Tatarsky was hosting a discussion on Sunday.

She carries the box past the cafe then turns back and walks inside.

Russian officials said Mr Tatarsky, 40, was killed in the explosion as he was leading a discussion at Street Food Bar No. 1 cafe, on the banks of the Neva River, in the historic heart of the city.

More than 30 people were wounded by the blast, and 10 of them remain in grave condition, according to the authorities.

Investigators believe the bomb was hidden in a bust of the blogger, which the suspect had given to him as a gift just before the explosion.

Russian police said Ms Trepova was arrested on suspicion of being involved in Tatarsky's killing.

Darya Trepova has been arrested. Credit: Source

The 26-year-old St Petersburg resident, has previously been detained for taking part in anti-war rallies.

The Interfax news agency initially reported her arrest late on Sunday, but later said that she was on the run while her mother and sister were summoned for questioning.

Russian officials said Mr Tatarsky - a strident supporter of the war in Ukraine - was a guest speaker, leading a discussion at the cafe.

State media and military bloggers said Mr Tatarsky was meeting with members of the public and that a woman presented him with a box containing a bust of him that apparently blew up.

Witnesses said a woman told Mr Tatarsky she had made a bust of him but the guards asked her to leave it at the door, suspecting it could be a bomb.

They joked and laughed, and she went to the door, grabbed the bust to present it to Mr Tatarsky.

A video showed Mr Tatarsky making jokes about the bust and putting it on the table next to him just before the explosion.

Footage taken moments before the explosion shows Mr Tatarsky admiring the bust, saying: "He's so handsome. Oh wow, it's golden."

A patriotic Russian group that organised the event said it had taken security precautions, but added that “regrettably, they proved insufficient.”

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the state's top criminal investigation agency, opened a probe on charges of murder.

A video posted on Russian messaging app channels showed the cafe after the explosion. Tables and chairs were broken and stained by blood, and shards of glass littered the floor.

Russian media said investigators were looking at the bust as the possible source of the blast but have not ruled out the possibility that an explosive device was planted in the cafe before the event.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the state's top criminal investigation agency, opened a probe on charges of murder.

No one publicly claimed responsibility. Russia's Interior Ministry said everyone at the cafe at the time of the blast was being “checked for involvement.”

Vladlen Tatarsky speaks during a party in front of an image of him, before an explosion at a cafe in St Petersburg on April 2. Credit: AP
Dozens have been injured. Credit: AP

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

He was known for his ardent pro-war rhetoric and for being close to Vladimir Putin's regime.

After the Kremlin's annexation of four regions of Ukraine last year, Mr Tatarsky posted a video in which he vowed: “That’s it. We’ll defeat everybody, kill everybody, rob everybody we need to.

"It will all be the way we like it. God be with you.”

Many countries have condemned the annexation as illegal.

Since the fighting in Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, various fires and explosions have occurred in Russia without any clear connection to the conflict.

Russian investigators work at the site of the explosion. Credit: AP

A top Ukrainian government official speculated that internal Russian opposition to the Kremlin's invasion was behind the blast.

“Spiders are eating each other in a jar,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote in English on Twitter. “Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time.”

But military bloggers and patriotic commentators immediately pointed a finger at Ukraine and compared the bombing to the killing last August of Darya Dugina, a nationalist TV commentator.

She was killed when a remotely controlled explosive device planted in her SUV blew up as she was driving on the outskirts of Moscow.

Russian authorities blamed Ukraine’s military intelligence for Dugina’s death, but Kyiv denied involvement.

Her father, Alexander Dugin, a nationalist philosopher and political theorist who strongly supports the invasion of Ukraine, hailed Mr Tatarsky as an "immortal" hero who died to save the Russian people.

“There must be no talks with the terrorists other than about their unconditional surrender,” Dugin said. “A victory parade must take place in Kyiv.”

Military bloggers have played an increasingly prominent and influential role in the flow of information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

They have almost universally championed the goals of the campaign but at times criticise Russian military strategy and tactical decisions.

At the same time, the Kremlin has squelched alternative voices opposing the war by shutting down news outlets, limiting the public’s access to information and jailing critics.

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