Recently, a large explosion in Russia’s second-largest city, Saint Petersburg, killed Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in a small cafe while he was hosting a public event. The explosion also injured 40-50 other people, with the Russian government reporting that 24 people were hospitalized as a result of the explosion. The cafe, located on the bank of the Neva River that runs through the city, was visibly damaged in several videos posted on Russian social media. From the outside, the cafe had most of its facade blasted into the street, and a video posted from inside the cafe by a witness shows broken glass and flipped-over chairs, with blood covering many areas of the cafe’s floor. Tatarsky was a prominent Russian blogger, who was very active in the current Invasion of Ukraine as a military blogger for the Russian army, but Tatarsky went by the online name of “Maxim Fonim” while posting to his Russian Telegram account, which has over 560,000 followers. Russian authorities accused elements of the Ukrainian army of planning the bombing, but Ukraine has remained silent on the current event outside of posts on government Twitter accounts. Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak commented about the bombing on Twitter, stating that “spiders are eating each other in a jar.” He believes the incident was a case of “domestic terrorism,” and also accused the Russian government of using it as a political tool for the current invasion they are conducting in Ukraine. One woman, Darya Trepova, was arrested by Russian police in connection to the bombing. Video obtained from the cafe shows Trepova handing Tatarsky a small bust that she had sculpted of him, making a few jokes about how the security Tatarsky had hired didn’t want her to bring in the bust due to fear of it being a bomb. After Trepova left the cafe, a large explosion followed, and she was charged with “committing a terrorist act by an organized group that caused intentional death” and the “illegal possession of explosive devices by an organized group” after she was detained by Russian police. After the bombing, on April 4th, the National Republican Army (NRA), a Russian rebel group, claimed responsibility for the attack on a post online.
A picture of Tatarsky used for a memorial near the explosion site in St Petersburg. (Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images/PBS)
Tatarsky was originally born in Makiivka, Donetsk, a city in the industrial region of Ukraine. He was originally a small-time businessman who produced furniture, but he was arrested in 2011 for the robbery of a Ukrainian bank in Donetsk and sentenced to prison. While in prison, the 2014 War in Donbas started, during which Tatarsky escaped from prison and joined the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Militia and became a prominent war correspondent. After the Russian invasion in 2022, Tatarsky became a war correspondent for Russian media, using his Telegram channel with a large following to post regular updates about his deployments in Ukraine. Tatarsky has been honored in several billboards and public services throughout Russia and occupied Ukrainian territory, and he was posthumously awarded the Order of Courage, a Russian medal awarded to civilians and public servants, by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Associated Press, “Explosion in Russian café kills prominent military blogger”, 2023
Reuters, “Factbox: Vladlen Tatarsky: Who was Russian blogger killed in bomb explosion in St Petersburg café?”, 2023
Public Broadcast Service, “Russia says Ukraine orchestrated bombing that killed pro-war military blogger”, 2023
The Independent, “Suspect in Russia café bombing that killed pro-Putin blogger charged with terror offences”, 2023