Russia charges peace activist in assassination of pro-war blogger in Saint Petersburg

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Fomin in 2021.
Image: Czar Talks.

Yesterday, Russia charged anti-war activist Darya Trepova with terrorism over the Sunday bombing of a café in Saint Petersburg, which killed pro-war blogger Maxim Fomin, best known by his nom de plume, Vladlen Tatarsky.

The Investigative Committee of Russia charged Trepova with "a terrorist act by an organized group that caused intentional death". The committee also alleged Trepova was working at the behest of Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in February 2022. Trepova is a Russian national.

According to Russian media, Fomin was hosting an event at the café with approximately 100 people in attendance on Sunday evening. A woman who called herself "Nastya" presented Fomin with a bust or statuette, saying she had made it for him.

After he accepted and placed it on a table, it reportedly exploded. Fomin was killed and about 30 others were injured in the explosion, which also did extensive damage to the café. TASS reported the blast was created by at least 200 grams of TNT.

The government alleges "Nastya" is Trepova, aged 26 and a resident of Saint Petersburg; Trepova has previously been arrested for participating in protests against the war. Baza reported her husband is Dmitry Rylov, a member of the Libertarian Party of Russia sought by authorities. Trepova was transferred to a jail in Moscow pending trial.

The café, Street Food Bar No. 1, was previously owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who controls the Wagner Group, a private military company fighting for Russia in Ukraine. Prigozhin released a statement, saying he gave the café to a group called Cyber Z Front for them to hold meetings. Prigozhin also said the assassination was likely carried out by a "group of radicals" rather than the Ukrainian government.

Fomin was born in Donbas, Ukraine. According to The Guardian, he was a coal miner who was in prison for bank robbery until the War in Donbas. He reportedly fought for the separatists before moving to Moscow and becoming a blogger, amassing a half-million subscribers.

Fomin — as Vladlen Tartansky — was very pro-war, even to the extent of criticizing Russian military leadership for being ineffective and saying they should be prosecuted for retreating from Kherson. "We'll defeat everyone, we'll kill everyone, we'll loot whoever we need to, and everything will be just as we like it," he said in a video post in 2022. "Either we fight a full-on war or [...] we will not succeed."