Russia makes arrest in blogger killing

Moscow blames Ukraine, opposition for death of top military blogger

MOSCOW: 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. Russian investigators detained 26-year-old Darya Trepova, who was said to have links to Navalny, and posted a video in which she said is heard saying she brought to the cafe a statuette rigged with an explosive device. Ukraine has blamed Russia’s domestic infighting for the blast in a Saint Petersburg cafe that wounded dozens and killed Vladlen Tatarsky, an active promoter of the Ukraine offensive.

“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. Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported Trepova had been arrested for 10 days for taking part in a protest on February 25, 2022, a day after the launch of the offensive in Ukraine.

The Russian interior ministry published a video of Trepova admitting to bringing a statuette that exploded. Asked on camera who gave it to her, she said she would answer “later”. Blood and glass Tatarsky was reportedly killed after receiving a gift statuette rigged with an explosive device during a talk at “Street Food Bar No. 1”, located along the Neva river not far from the historic city centre. “They put (the figurine) somewhere in the back without a second thought… and all of a sudden there was an explosion,” Alisa Smotrova, who was at the cafe, told AFP. “There was blood and pieces of glass,” she added.

The police were called at around 6:13 pm (1513 GMT) on Sunday and cordoned off the street outside the building. Around 20 police cars, six ambulances and several fire engines were at the scene, according to an AFP journalist there. The venue used to be owned by the head of Wagner paramilitary group Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin said on Telegram he “gave the cafe to patriotic movement Cyber Front Z and they organised various seminars there”. 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.

Prigozhin however said he believed the responsibility for the attack did not lie with Kyiv but with “a group of radicals that is hardly related to the (Ukrainian) government”. The Kremlin condemned the “terrorist attack” and said “there is evidence… that the Ukrainian special services may be related to its organisation”. ‘Kill everyone’ On Sunday evening Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said the attack happened as a result of Russian infighting. “(The) question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time,” he said on Twitter.

Prigozhin said he hoisted the Russian flag with an inscription honouring the deceased blogger over the city administration of Bakhmut, which he claimed to have seized. The Russian foreign ministry on Sunday paid hommage to the blogger and his “service to the Fatherland, which aroused Kyiv’s hatred”. Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, made his name early in the Ukraine offensive by publishing videos analysing the situation on the ground and offering advice for mobilised troops, according to TASS news agency.

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. After spending time in prison for robbing a bank, he escaped and went to take part in armed combat in the Donetsk region in 2014, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported. Kommersant said he retired from military service in 2019 and founded his popular Telegram channel, which had more than 500,000 followers at the time of his death. Last September, he told the media at a ceremony in the Kremlin: “We will defeat everyone. We will kill everyone. We will rob everyone as necessary. Just as we like it.” – AFP

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