Well-known Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed after an explosion tore through a St Petersburg cafe he was in on Sunday.
Russian officials said Tatarsky, who was a strident supporter of the war in Ukraine, was killed as he was leading a discussion at the cafe on the bank of the Neva River in the historic heart of Russia’s second-largest city.
Reports claimed the 40-year-old blogger was meeting with members of the public when a woman presented him with a box containing a bust of him that blew up.
But who was Vladlen Tatarsky? Sky News explains.
Born in the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, Tatarsky, whose real name was Max Fomin, began his working life as a coal miner before starting a furniture business.
But when he experienced financial difficulties, he decided to rob a bank and was sentenced to prison.
He fled from custody after a Russia-backed separatist rebellion engulfed the Donbas in 2014, weeks after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Tatarsky then joined separatist rebels and fought on the frontline before becoming a blogger – and soon became known for his blustery pronouncements and ardent pro-war rhetoric.
He was known for his hardline views, criticising Russian military commanders as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin for being too soft in their approach.
One of his most controversial statements was his support for attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, which he believed would result in more Ukrainian casualties, while he regularly referred to Ukraine as a “terrorist state” and advocated for its defeat.
Following the Kremlin’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine last year that many countries deemed illegal, Tatarsky posted a video where he vowed: “That’s it. We’ll defeat everybody, kill everybody, rob everybody we need to. It will all be the way we like it. God be with you.”
His online presence became well known as military bloggers have played an increasingly prominent and influential role in the circulation of information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Tatarsky boasted more than 560,000 followers on Telegram. He was one of the most prominent military bloggers who championed Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, while often criticising Russian military strategy and tactical decisions.
Tatarsky ‘won hatred’ of Kyiv
Tatarsky was sanctioned by Ukraine due to his extremist views and involvement in the conflict, and was banned from entering the country for 10 years.
Any assets belonging to him that were found in Ukraine were also confiscated.
But Tatarsky continued to promote his views and beliefs through his blog and social media channels despite these sanctions.
Reacting to Tatarsky’s death, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said his activities “won him the hatred of the Kyiv regime”.
She noted that he and other Russian military bloggers long have faced Ukrainian threats.
Pro-war Russian military blogger killed in blast at St Petersburg cafe
Ukraine is holding strong – but as war deaths mount its fortitude is to be severely tested
Many have compared the bombing to the killing of Darya Dugina, a nationalist TV commentator, last August.
She was killed when a remote-controlled explosive device planted in her SUV blew up as she drove on the outskirts of Moscow. While Russian authorities blamed Ukraine’s military intelligence for Ms Dugina’s death, Kyiv denied any involvement.
Ms Dugina’s father, Alexander Dugin, a nationalist philosopher and political theorist who is a strong supporter of the invasion of Ukraine, hailed Tatarsky as an “immortal” hero who died to save the Russian people.
“There must be no talks with the terrorists other than about their unconditional surrender,” Mr Dugin said. “A victory parade must take place in Kyiv.”
Known for ‘extremely radical statements’
Christo Grozev, from the renowned investigative reporting website Bellingcat said the Russian blogger was known for some “extremely radical statements”.
These included disparaging the official Russian military forces and praising the Wagner Group mercenaries.
Mr Grozev added it is important to remember that Tatarsky was a soldier who participated in the 2014 invasion of Ukraine, not just a blogger.
Discussing the blast, Mr Grozev told Sky News: “At this point nothing is certain. It could well be that this was a Ukrainian operation.
“It might also be an operation of Russian security services as a false flag operation to consolidate the pro-war sentiments in Russia.”