(Moscow) Russia announced on Monday the arrest of a woman suspected of having taken part in the attack in which a famous blogger supporting the offensive in Ukraine was killed the day before, blaming Kyiv and “agents” of imprisoned opponent Alexei Navalny.
Investigators introduced 26-year-old Russian citizen Daria Trepova as an activist with Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund, banned in Russia since 2021.
She is accused of having brought a booby-trapped statuette whose explosion caused the death of blogger Maxime Fomin, known under the pseudonym of Vladlen Tatarskiï, in a café in Saint Petersburg (North-West).
The case was described as a “planned and organized terrorist act” of Ukrainian territory, the Investigative Committee said, pointing to Ms. Trepova’s “opposition views” in the Kremlin.
The police then released a video in which this young woman admits to having brought the trapped statuette, while refusing to say for the moment where the bomb came from and not saying a word about the organization of Alexei Navalny.
The latter, the main opponent of the Kremlin, imprisoned for more than two years, is serving a nine-year prison sentence for fraud and is also the subject of prosecution for extremism.
The attack “was planned by Ukraine’s secret service who recruited agents from among those collaborating with the so-called Navalny Anti-Corruption Fund”, assured the Anti-Terrorism Committee of Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denounced “an act of terrorism”. Mr Putin posthumously decorated the blogger with the prestigious Order of Courage.
Asked about the case on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he did not care what was happening in Russia.
The day before, an official of the Ukrainian presidency, Mykhailo Podoliak, had denied on Twitter any involvement, believing that it was “internal terrorism” due to rivalries within the Russian regime.
After the accusations against Mr. Navalny’s organization, his spokesperson, Kira Iarmych, denounced a set-up by the Kremlin.
“Alexei [Navalny] will soon be tried for extremism, he faces 35 years. And the Kremlin thought: it’s great for the sequel to be able to add ‘terrorism’ to it, ”she wrote on Twitter.
Saint Petersburg residents who came to bring flowers to the scene of the attack on Tuesday told AFP of their “shock”.
“He was one of the people I used to listen to very carefully. It’s a very big loss,” said Igor Ivanov, an 18-year-old student.
“Today, we can expect a blow anywhere and anytime,” said Vladislav Andreyev, a 27-year-old logistician.
According to the state news agency TASS, the young woman arrested on Monday was known to the courts for having been imprisoned for ten days after demonstrating against the Russian offensive.
On Sunday, the blogger was killed in a cafe in St. Petersburg where he was speaking at a conference of an organization called Cyber Z Front supporting the operation of Russian forces in Ukraine. The cafe is owned by the leader of the Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigojine.
According to a latest report, 32 other people were injured, eight of whom are in serious condition. The explosion was of a power equivalent to 200 grams of TNT.
The attack is reminiscent of the one in which Daria Douguina, an ardent defender of the offensive against Ukraine and daughter of the ultranationalist author Alexander Dougin, perished in August. Russia then accused Kyiv despite its denials.
Taking the opposite view of the authorities, Yevgeny Prigojine seemed to rule out that these assassinations were prepared by the Ukrainian secret services.
“I will not accuse the Kyiv regime of these acts. I think a group of radicals are in action,” he said on his press service’s Telegram channel.
The previous evening, he had paid tribute to the blogger in a video apparently filmed from the town of Bakhmout, the epicenter of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The 40-year-old blogger killed on Sunday was from Donbass, an eastern Ukrainian region at the heart of the conflict. Regularly on the front on the Russian side, he had more than half a million subscribers on his Telegram channel.
According to Russian media, he had been incarcerated in Ukraine for a robbery in 2011. In 2014, taking advantage of clashes sparked in eastern Ukraine by Moscow-led separatists, he escaped from prison to join these fighters .
In 2019, he left the separatist forces, according to the daily Kommersant, to make a name for himself as a blogger.
In September, he shocked during a reception at the Kremlin celebrating the unilateral annexation of Ukrainian regions. “We’ll defeat everyone, we’ll kill everyone, we’ll rob everyone we need, everything will be as we like,” he said in front of the camera.