“War correspondent” Vladlen Tatarsky was killed in an explosion at a St. Petersburg cafe on 2 April. At least 32 people were injured, 24 of them were hospitalised, with 10 in critical condition, according to the Russian Health Ministry. One of the running theories is that an audience member sneaked a figurine with a bomb inside to the cafe which belongs to Yevgeny Prigozhin, PMC Wagner founder.
Novaya-Europe explains who Vladlen Tatarsky was and who could be behind his murder.
Around 7 PM on 2 April, an explosion rocked St. Petersburg’s Street Bar. According to local media outlet Fontanka, this establishment used to belong to Yevgeny Prigozhin; more recently, it became a place for meetups of the discussion club Cyber Z Front.
Popular pro-Russian blogger, creator of a Telegram channel with over 500,000 subscribers Vladlen Tatarsky was giving a speech there on the day of the explosion. The room was packed. The only one to be killed by the explosion was the “war correspondent” himself.
Russia’s news agency Interfax reported, citing a law enforcement source, that the explosive device containing over 200 grams of TNT was hidden in the figurine one of the audience members gifted to Tatarsky during the evening. The explosion occurred at the height of 60 centimetres off the floor.
“An unknown young woman is wanted on suspicion of committing the crime, she handed the killed man a gift in the form of a plaster figurine. Inside the plaster, there could be a radio-controlled improvised explosive device with damaging enhancements, containing 100-200 grams of TNT. The device seems to have been activated after the [woman who had gifted the figurine to Tatarsky] had left the cafe in a hurry,” the source said.
Media outlet RBC’s source in the Ministry of Internal Affairs said that the explosion occurred to the right of the place where Tatarsky was sitting.
Darya Trepova. Photo: VK
Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on murder charges after the explosion. The organiser of the meeting with Tatarsky stated that security measures were taken, but they “evidently weren’t enough”.
Later in the evening, Interfax reported, citing a source in law enforcement, that St. Petersburg resident Darya Trepova was detained on suspicion of Tatarsky’s murder. Allegedly, it was Trepova who brought the box with the explosive device to the meeting. Russia’s Investigative Committee later confirmed this information.
What’s Vladlen Tatarsky known for?
Vladlen Tatarsky’s real name is Maxim Fomin, he was born in the city of Makiivka, Donetsk region. He chose his pseudonym based on the protagonist of Russian author Viktor Pelevin’s novel Generation P. Tatarsky said that he read the novel in a prison in Ukraine’s Horlivka where he ended up in 2011 for robbing a bank. In 2014, he escaped from prison and joined the pro-Russian militia. Then Tatarsky was imprisoned again, until he was pardoned by the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk “people’s republic” Oleksandr Zakharchenko. Zakharchenko was also killed in a cafe explosion on 31 August 2018.
Vladlen Tatarsky in his youth. Photo: VK
In 2019, Tatarsky moved to Moscow and published several books about his life. For example, his book Running was about his escape from prison. Around the same time, he became a blogger. In February 2022, Tatarsky went back to Donbas and joined the East battalion. That’s when he became popular — every day, Tatarsky would share with his subscribers what was happening at the front.
His main claim to fame is the video that he recorded on 30 September 2022 in the Kremlin after Vladimir Putin had signed agreements about the occupied Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics”, as well as the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions joining Russia.
“We’ll kill everyone, we’ll rob everyone who needs to be robbed. Everything will be just as we like it,” he was saying happily in the video.
This is not the only statement of the kind made by Tatarsky. For example, he said that “Ukraine as a state in its current form should be destroyed” and “If on the first day we had buried 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers in Ukrainian barracks, they would’ve been more amenable during the negotiations, that would demoralise them way more.”
Since autumn 2022, Tatarsky has been frequently criticising Russia’s Defence Ministry following a series of failures at the front. This is how he ended up part of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s media pool; PMC Wagner’s founder was also was dissatisfied with the Russian army’s commanders.
Vladlen Tatarsky signing his books. Photo: social media
Russian propagandists react
Russian propagandists blamed Ukraine for Tatarsky’s murder and demanded Russia retaliate.
Editor-in-chief of RT Margarita Simonyan wrote on her socials: “Well then? Will we forget? Forgive?”
“The ground should be burning under the feet of any Kyiv official, be they in uniform or not. Not one of these savages who chose to follow the path of war with Russia should feel safe, be they in Artemivsk, Kyiv, Lviv, or Ivano-Frankivsk. Instead of speculating on why we’re not targeting the decision-making centres, we should be questioning why we’re not targeting the people who make the decisions. But we’ve been over all of this before, when Daria Dugina got blown up… May you rest in peace, Max.”
Member of the Civic Chamber of Russia Alexander Malkevich said that Russian people are expecting a big “response to this terrorist attack unleashed against civilians”.
Russia’s media personality Tina Kandelaki demanded Russia retaliate: “The safety of public opinion leaders is non-existent. Ritual murders have become a tradition. When will the country begin to respond? The terrorists have electricity, water, functioning railways, restaurants, and the Internet. Bosses of the murderers are travelling around the country with TV cameras.”
Spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova also blamed Tatarsky’s murder on Ukraine:
“Russian journalists are constantly facing the threat of violence from the Kiev regime and its masterminds, and their threats are carried out with an increasing frequency. <…> The Kiev regime hated Vladlen Tatarsky’s professional work and service to his homeland. They saw him as a danger, but he did his duty and was true to his courageous self until the end.”
Adviser to the head of Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podolyak stated that the murder of Tatarsky is a sign of an internal political fight in Russia:
“It begins in RF… Spiders are eating each other in a jar. Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time, as breakthrough of ripe abscess. Irreversible processes and Troubles 2.0. await RF. While we will watch.”
Former deputy of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s Parliament, Ilya Ponomarev hinted in a conversation with media outlet Sota that he knows who killed Vladlen Tatarsky, but said that an official commentary from the group that organised this act would follow later.
The criminal case and the corresponding investigation have been taken under control of the central office of Russia’s Investigative Committee.
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