Putin on brink as blogger’s death unleashes deadly Kremlin struggle

The assassination of the prominent pro-war Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky may have been intended as a warning to Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to analysts. Prigozhin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, has been embroiled in a bitter power struggle with Russia‘s Defence Ministry and military chiefs. In particular, he has repeatedly attacked Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and Russia‘s top General Valery Gerasimov for their conduct of the war in Ukraine.

Russian experts have suggested that the Wagner boss has his eyes on Shoigu’s ministerial portfolio and maybe even trying to position himself to take over from Vladimir Putin as president of the country.

Yesterday’s bomb attack, which has injured at least 32 people and hospitalised 24, took place at the Cafe Street Food Bar No.1 in Saint Petersburg, a restaurant that used to belong to Prigozhin.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think-tank, say the location of the attack is significant, given that Tatarsky had attended a previous event earlier in the day without incident.

They wrote: “Fomin had attended another event earlier in the day without incident, so it appears that the attack was deliberately staged in a space owned by Prigozhin.

“Fomin’s assassination may have been intended as a warning to Prigozhin, who has been increasingly questioning core Kremlin talking points about the war in Ukraine and even obliquely signalling an interest in the Russian presidency, whether in competition with Putin or as his successor.

“Fomin’s biography and behaviour bear a resemblance to Prigozhin’s as both became prominent ultranationalist figures after being imprisoned and receiving pardons.”

Advisor to Ukrainian Presidential Office Mykhailo Podolyak stated that Fomin’s death was a result of in-fighting and political competition among Russian actors

Daria Trepova, 26, has emerged as one of the main suspects behind the murder of Tatarsky.

Early this morning, OMON special police units armed with machine guns stormed her apartment, as they searched the city for her.

Ms Trepova has a track record of opposing the military campaign in Ukraine and was arrested on February 26 after taking part in an anti-war protest called “Bloody Mistress”.

Video has emerged of Ms Trepova bringing a box containing a small gold-coloured statue of Tatarsky into the cafe before the explosion.

One version detectives from the state investigative Committee are examining is that the bomb, believed to have contained 200g of TNT, was hidden in the statue.

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Witnesses said that a woman calling herself “Nastya” had approached the pro-war blogger in the moments leading up to the explosion.

According to their testimony, “Nastya” told Tatarsky she had brought a sculpture of him and wanted to give it to him as a present.

However, security personnel asked her to leave it at the door of the cafe, suspecting it could be a bomb.

Tatarsky laughed and told her to go and fetch it, which she did, before presenting the bust to the pro-war blogger. He then placed it on a table nearby.

The explosion happened within three to five minutes after the exchange between the two, resulting in the death of the pro-war activist.

Russian politicians have rushed to pay tribute to the deceased.

Valentina Matvienko, Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and a former governor of Saint Petersburg, said the blogger had written “the truth”.

“I have read his messages. Vladlen wrote the truth, he wrote simply, brightly,” she said.

“Therefore, he became a target for our enemies, who are afraid of the strength of our spirit, our people’s will.

“And Vladlen not only fought in the militia, collected help for our soldiers, but, most importantly, he formed the people’s understanding of the special operation.

“And I’m sure he did a lot for our future victory.”