The female anti-war activist suspected of assassinating one of Vladimir Putin’s propagandists by carrying a statue laden with explosives into a cafe has today been arrested.
Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, was blown to pieces yesterday after Daria Trepova, 26, reportedly entered the cafe in St Petersburg and handed him a small statue of himself that was said to be laden with explosives.
Tatarsky, 40, a staunch supporter of Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, had been speaking at a political event at the Street Food No 1 cafe when the bomb exploded next to him, killing the propagandist and injuring 32 others in what the Kremlin claimed was a ‘terrorist attack’.
Russia’s Investigative Committee today said they had detained Trepova in a rented flat in St Petersburg on suspicion of carrying out the assassination. Speaking for the first time since her arrest, Trepova insisted she had been ‘set up’ and ‘was being used’.
Russia’s top counterterrorism agency claimed – without providing evidence – that Trepova had carried out the attack with the help of ‘Ukrainian special services’ and activists who are linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
It came after a chilling video appeared to show Trepova, a St Petersburg resident who has previously been detained for taking part in anti-war rallies, walking into the cafe carrying a box containing what may have been statuette containing 450g of TNT – just minutes before it exploded.
A video is believed to show Daria Trepova, 26, walking to the cafe carrying a box containing what may have been the statuette said to contain 450g of TNT
Investigators have arrested Trepova (left) on suspicion of murdering Tatarsky (right) after she fled from the scene
This is the moment Tatarsky was handed a statuette that is believed to have been hiding the bomb that exploded at the Street Food No. 1 cafe
Images from inside the cafe appear to show Trepova (circled) handing Tatarsky a bust of himself before she began walking back to her seat
Russian investigators are searching the cafe where a pro-Kremlin blogger who called for the destruction of Ukraine was ‘assassinated’ and 30 others were wounded in a bomb attack
Media outlet 112, which has close links to law enforcement, revealed what it said was the first picture of Daria Trepova after she was detained
The Russian Interior Ministry had this morning put Trepova on Russia’s wanted list on suspicion of murdering Tatarsky after she fled from the scene – but she was arrested within hours of the arrest warrant being released.
According to Russian media reports, Trepova told investigators that she was used as a carrier to deliver the explosive device, but didn’t know that it was hidden in the bust.
Trepova’s partner, Dmitry Rylov – also in his 20s and a member of the so-called Russian Liberation Army – insisted that she had been ‘set up’.
Rylov, who had previously been detained at anti-war rallies in Russia, said today: ‘I believe that my wife was set up. I am in full confidence that she would never be able to do something like that on her own volition.
‘Yes, with Daria we really do not support the war in Ukraine, but we believe that such actions are unacceptable.
‘I am 100 per cent sure that she would never have agreed to such a thing if she had known.’
According to him, she ‘completely misunderstood the purpose’ of the statuette she gave to Tatarsky.
The plot thickened further after Russian investigators said they had identified a second female suspect, Maria Yaran, 40, as being involved in the blast. She is reportedly in hospital in St Petersburg following the bombing.
Witnesses said that Trepova had used a false name of Nastya when she handed Tatarsky the statuette inside the cafe – and was then reluctant to get close to him when he asked her to sit next to him.
One witness, Alisa Smotrova, said ‘Nastya’ told Tatarsky that 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.
But Tatarsky joked and laughed with ‘Nastya’ and insisted on seeing the statuette. She then went to the door, grabbed the bust and presented it to Tatarsky.
Smotrova said: ‘They took out [of the box] the sculpture, it’s a golden head in a helmet. I don’t even know if it looks like [Tatarsky]. Hard to say…
‘He put it down [on a nearby table] without a second thought. And then continued asking questions [to his seminar audience].’
Smotorva said an explosion followed and described people running in panic, some hurt by shattered glass and covered in blood.
She said: ‘We were sitting in the second part of the hall. Everyone ran, and we [decided]: we must run. And we ran.
‘Those nearby, of course, were already covered in blood and ran away. The windows exploded too. We ran to the exit.’
Images from inside the cafe appear to show Trepova handing Tatarsky a bust of himself before she began walking back to her seat.
‘Tatarsky stopped her, and asked her to sit next to him,’ a witness claimed, adding that she said she was shy and didn’t want to sit too close.
The National Anti-Terrorist Committee claimed, without presenting evidence, the attack on Tatarsky was ‘planned by Ukrainian special services’ with the involvement of people who have cooperated with an anti-corruption foundation created by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
It noted that the arrested suspect was an ‘active supporter’ of Navalny’s group.
Trepova had a ticket for a flight from Pulkova airport in St Petersburg last night following the blast, but she did not show up for it, reports Izvestia.
The direction of the flight was not reported but there were suggestions she aimed to reach Georgia via Turkey.
Russian investigators said they had identified a second female suspect, Maria Yaran, 40, (pictured) as being involved in the blast. She is reportedly in hospital in St Petersburg following the bombing
An image shows Daria Trepova on Russia’s wanted list as published by the Interior Ministry. She was later arrested on suspicion of murder
Suspect Daria Trepova, 26, with her partner Dmitry Rylov. Rylov, also in his 20s and a member of the so-called Russian Liberation Army, insisted that she had been ‘set up’.
Well-known Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky (pictured) was killed in a bomb blast in a cafe in St Petersburg on Sunday
One witness, Alisa Smotrova (pictured) , said ‘Nastya’ told Tatarsky that 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
Investigators searched Trepova’s flat earlier today but she was not found, while her mother was reportedly taken from the home and taken to a police station. Trepova was later arrested.
A report by Telegram channel VCK-OGPU claimed it had access to Trepova’s private web exchanges with a friend in a secret web chat.
This suggested she had come to St Petersburg from Moscow late last week and intended to fly abroad – to Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, via Istanbul.
Trepova, a former shop worker in St Petersburg, reportedly had breakfast with her friend yesterday.
After the explosion Trepova reportedly messaged her friend to say: ‘I could have died there, I’d rather have died there, I was set up.’
No one publicly claimed responsibility for the bombing, but military bloggers and patriotic commentators immediately pointed a finger at Ukraine and compared the bombing to the killing last August of Darya Dugina, a nationalist TV commentator.
She was killed when a remotely controlled explosive device planted in her SUV blew up as she was driving on the outskirts of Moscow.
Russian authorities blamed Ukraine’s military intelligence for Dugina’s death, but Kyiv denied involvement.
Dugina’s father, Alexander Dugin, a nationalist philosopher and political theorist who strongly supports the invasion of Ukraine, hailed Tatarsky as an ‘immortal’ hero who died to save the Russian people.
Reacting to Tatarsky’s death, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Sunday his activities ‘have won him the hatred of the Kyiv regime’ and noted that he and other Russian military bloggers have long faced Ukrainian threats.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian millionaire owner of the Wagner Group military contractor spearheading Moscow’s offensive in eastern Ukraine, said he owned the cafe and handed it over to a patriotic group for meetings.
He said he doubts the Ukrainian authorities’ involvement in the bombing, saying the attack was likely launched by a ‘group of radicals’ unrelated to the government in Kyiv.
A view of the scene of an explosion at the cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Sunday
Russian investigators work at the site of the explosion on Sunday night
The moment of the explosion that killed pro-Kremlin war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky and wounded more dozens of people
Tatarsky was killed in a blast at the Street Food No. 1 cafe, located in the St Petersburg city centre, on Sunday
‘I have indeed passed the cafe to a patriotic movement called Cyber Front Z,’ he said. ‘They were doing various seminars there.
‘It is indeed similar to the murder of Darya Dugina [daughter of a Putin ideologue who was killed aged 29 last year in a car explosion]. I would not blame the Kyiv regime for it.
‘I think it was a group of [Ukrainian] Right-wing radicals who did it, which is unlikely to be linked to the government.’
A top Ukrainian government official cast the explosion that killed Tatarsky as part of internal turmoil.
‘Spiders are eating each other in a jar,’ Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote in English on Twitter late Sunday. ‘Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time.’
Police told RBC media that ‘the explosion was at a height of 60 centimetres from the floor’, adding that the bomb contained between 300 to 450 grams of TNT. ‘The explosion was to the right of Tatarsky,’ police added.
One report said that security in the cafe – where Tatarskyn was taking part in a seminar – had stopped Trepova bringing the statuette into the meeting because it was feared to be an explosive.
A witness said: ‘The girl who brought the figurine was sitting a little further away from me, and when she started talking about all this, she said that they didn’t let her in at the entrance.
Investigators work at the site of the explosion
‘She said they had said “there could be a bomb”. She said exactly that. She literally asked [Tatarsky] for permission: ‘Allow me to bring it in anyway?’
‘And Vladlen says: “Bring in it… we will check if there is something inside.” Those were his words.’
A video shows Tatarsky vowing the destruction of Ukraine.
He said: ‘We’ll conquer everyone, we’ll kill everyone. We’ll loot whoever we need to, and everything will be just as we like it.’
Some Russian outlets immediately blamed the Ukraine authorities for the blast but it is unclear what, if any, evidence they have for this.
The pro-Putin speaker of the Russian senate Valentina Matviyenko said: ‘Vladlen wrote the truth, he wrote simply, brightly.
‘As a result 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.’