Russian officials say they have arrested a suspect over the death of a pro-war military blogger killed in an explosion at a cafe in St Petersburg.
Daria Trepova, 26, has been detained following the death of Vladlen Tatarsky in the blast, which took place at a cafe as he held a talk on Sunday, Russia’s Investigative Committee has said.
Around 30 people were also wounded in the explosion, with 10 of them said to be in a critical condition, according to the authorities.
Russian news reports said the bomb was hidden in a bust of the blogger that the suspect had given to him as a gift just before the explosion.
Mr Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, had more than 560,000 followers on Telegram and was one of the most prominent of the influential military bloggers who have provided an often critical running commentary on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A St Petersburg website said the cafe had at one time belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group – the private army that is fighting for Russia in Ukraine.
A leading Russian official pointed the finger of blame at Ukraine, without providing evidence. The claim was rebuffed by Kyiv.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, blamed Russian domestic terrorism for the blast.
“The spiders are eating each other in a jar,” he added.
Russian media and military bloggers said Tatarsky was meeting with members of the public and that a woman presented him with a statuette that apparently exploded.
In remarks recorded on video, a witness said that a woman who identified herself as Nastya asked questions and exchanged remarks with Tatarsky.
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.
‘At this point nothing is certain’
If Tatarsky was deliberately targeted it would be the second assassination on Russian soil of a figure associated with the war in Ukraine.
Darya Dugina, the daughter of a Vladimir Putin ally, was killed last August after a suspected explosive device detonated on the Toyota Land Cruiser she was travelling in.
Tatarsky was among hundreds of attendees at a lavish Kremlin ceremony last September to proclaim Russia’s annexation of four partly occupied regions of Ukraine.
“We’ll defeat everyone, we’ll kill everyone, we’ll rob everyone we need to. Everything will be as we like it,” he was shown saying in a video clip on that occasion.