Well-known Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed in an explosion at a cafe in Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, on Sunday. According to MVD news agency, at least 16 people were injured in the incident.
Tatarsky, who was known for his extreme pro-Kremlin views and fiery pro-war rhetoric, had a large following on Telegram with over 560,000 subscribers. He often wrote about the war in Ukraine, including from the front lines. He had even met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last year.
Prior to his blogging career, Tatarsky had fought alongside separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine and had served time in prison for an armed robbery.
The explosion occurred while Tatarsky was holding an event for media professionals at the cafe, where he was expected to discuss what it means to be a military correspondent. A woman had reportedly handed him a statue that was rigged with explosives.
Local media reports indicate that the cafe was previously owned by Evgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian mercenary group Wagner. The authorities are now searching for the woman who handed Tatarsky the explosive statue.
It remains unclear if the blast was directly related to the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. However, Tatarsky’s death is the latest in a string of attacks against journalists in Russia in recent years.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Russia is one of the deadliest countries for journalists, with 58 journalists killed since 1992. In many cases, the perpetrators of these attacks are not brought to justice.
The Russian government has been criticized for its crackdown on independent media outlets and journalists who report critically on the Kremlin. The government has used various tactics, including intimidation, censorship, and imprisonment, to suppress dissent and control the narrative.
In recent years, the government has also passed laws that restrict free speech and enable it to prosecute journalists and social media users for spreading “fake news” or insulting government officials.