Vladlen Tatarsky, a popular Russian military blogger, has died in a blast inside a cafe in St Petersburg, Russia. Although officials are still investigating what truly happened, Russian news reported that he was killed by an explosive device at the Street Food Bar No. 1 on Sunday.
Preliminary investigations suggest that Tatarsky was the primary target of the blast. However, 32 others sustained injuries, and at least 19 are being treated in the hospital. It is still unclear who was responsible for the blast as no group has claimed responsibility for it.
“24 victims were taken to medical facilities in St. Petersburg from the scene. Six more victims sought medical help on their own sometime after the incident,” Russian state television, TASS, reported, quoting the figure from the Ministry of Health.
As of Monday morning, the number of injured victims has risen to 32, but the death toll stands at one.
Who was Tatarsky?
Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was a famous military blogger who was deeply involved in the Russia-Ukraine war. He was born in Makiivka, in the Donetsk region, one of the regions annexed by Russia. At one point, he admitted to being an armed robber and was released from jail sometime in 2014.
Upon his release, Tatarsky joined the Donetsk rebels. When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, he was fully involved in the fight, being one of the soldiers that helped to launch combat drones and build fortifications.
Apart from being a fighter in the war, Tatarsky was a popular military blogger who updated citizens on the developments of the war, praising Russia’s war effort and at times criticising the men at the top of the Russian military hierarchy. With his over 560,000 followers on Telegram, he was one many Russians relied on for information regarding the war.
Russia blames Ukraine for the blast
Although no group has claimed responsibility for Tatarsky’s death, the Russian government is already pointing fingers at Ukraine. Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, blame the Kyiv regime for the death, describing the slain journalist as one of the “defenders of the truth.”
“Russian journalists constantly feel the threat of reprisals from the Kyiv regime,” Zakharova wrote on Telegram, adding that he was dangerous for the Ukrainians, but bravely went on until the end.
Ms Maria Zakharova added that the reaction in Ukraine and the lack of reactions from the West was a sign that they were delighted with Tatarsky’s death.
“The reaction in Kyiv is striking where those who receive Western grants are in no way concealing their delight at what has happened,” she continued, adding the lack of reaction from them shows a lack of concern for journalists and freedom of expression.
The pro-Kremlin leader of the Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, also believes the journalist was killed by the Ukrainians, whom he described as “terrorists.”
Pushilin said: “[Tatarsky] was killed vilely. Terrorists cannot do otherwise. The Kyiv regime is a terrorist regime. It needs to be destroyed, there’s no other way to stop it.”
Another supporter of the Kremlin in Eastern Ukraine, Alexander Khodakovsky, suggested that Tatarsky was killed because he was dangerous to the Ukrainians. He wrote: “If you were a nobody, you’d have died of ‘vodka and head colds. But you were dangerous to them, you did your business as no one else could. We will pray for you, brother.”
Other military bloggers commented on the death of their colleague and tactfully suggested that the government in Kyiv was responsible for the murder. Semyon Pegov, a military blogger, wrote: “He was in the hottest spots of the special military operation and he always came out alive. But the war found him in a Petersburg cafe.”
But was Ukraine responsible for Tartasky’s death?
“Spiders are eating each other in a jar”
Not many Ukrainians have commented on the blogger’s death and the blast in St. Petersburg. However, a few comments from Ukrainians suggested that it was distancing itself from whatever happened on Sunday and was accusing the Kremlin of “domestic terrorism.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to president Zelensky, said, “spiders are eating each other in a jar,” suggesting that the Russians were already killing themselves.
“It begins in [the Russian Federation] Spiders are eating each other in a jar,” he tweeted on Sunday. “Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of the internal political fight was a matter of time … While we will watch.”
A pattern of deaths, accusations and counter-accusations
Last year, Darya Dugina, daughter of Alexander Dugin, an ally of President Putin, was killed in a car bombing on the outskirts of Moscow. Tatarsky’s death seems to have followed the same pattern as there are indications that an explosive device was used in Sunday’s attack.
At the time, the Russian Federation accused Ukraine of being behind the attack, while the government in Kyiv said it was not responsible. For now, it is still unclear who killed Tatarsky and Darya. But somehow, the patterns of their deaths suggest that all might not be well within Russia.