An explosion tore through a cafe in Russia’s second-largest city Sunday, killing a well-known military blogger and strident supporter of the war in Ukraine. Some reports said a bomb was embedded in a bust that was given to him as a gift.
Russian officials said Vladlen Tatarsky was killed as he was leading a discussion at the cafe on the bank of the Neva River in the historic heart of St. Petersburg. Some 30 people were wounded in the blast, Russia’s Health Ministry reported.
Russian media and military bloggers said Tatarsky was meeting with members of the public when a woman presented him with a box containing a bust of him that apparently blew up. A patriotic Russian group that organized the event said it had taken security precautions but acknowledged that those measures “proved insufficient.”
In remarks recorded on video, a witness said that a woman who identified herself as Nastya asked questions and exchanged remarks with Tatarsky during the discussion.
The witness, Alisa Smotrova, quoted Nastya as saying she had made a bust of the blogger but that guards asked her to leave it at the door, suspecting it could be a bomb. Nastya and Tatarsky joked and laughed. She then went to the door, grabbed the bust and presented it to Tatarsky.
He reportedly put the bust on a nearby table, and the explosion followed. Smotrova described people running in panic, some hurt by shattered glass and covered in blood.
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that a St. Petersburg woman, Darya Tryopova, was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the bombing. It said that she had been previously detained for taking part in anti-war rallies.
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, 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.
Reacting to the latest incident, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Tatarsky’s activities “have won him the hatred of the Kyiv regime” and noted that he and other Russian military bloggers long have faced Ukrainian threats.
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