Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, who had been reporting from frontline Ukraine, has been killed in an explosion in a St Petersburg cafe. The blogger had recently posted about his trip to fight with the Ukrainian volunteer territorial defence battalions against Russia-backed separatists. Tatarsky was one of the few Russian bloggers to have reported from eastern Ukraine, and his blog covered topics ranging from Nazism to arts and literature.
Tatarsky’s death was confirmed by a message posted on his VKontakte page from his wife, Olga Mashevtsova. “Vlad was killed in a terrorist attack in one of the St Petersburg cafes last night. The investigation is underway…”. Reports suggest that a homemade device caused the incident, and that the attack had been intended for one of Tatarsky’s acquaintances.
There is speculation that the attack may have been related to Tatarsky’s anti-separatist activities. In recent months, members of the Russian media who have been critical of the country’s intervention in Ukraine have faced increasing levels of censorship, harassment and violence. Tatarsky’s blog, which has been active since 2012, took a neutral stance and attracted criticism from both sides.
The blast occurred in a cafe located in the Kupchino district of the city, where Tatarsky was reportedly meeting with friends who had accompanied him on his trip to Ukraine. A statement from the Russian Investigative Committee said that two men had been killed and one hospitalised with serious injuries. The committee confirmed that it was treating the incident as a terrorist attack and that an investigation was underway.
Tatarsky’s death is likely to fuel concerns over the escalation of violence against pro-Ukrainians in Russia, and may also serve to increase tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The Russian authorities have previously been accused of turning a blind eye to attacks on campaigners and activists who advocate for democracy and freedom of speech. The UN Human Rights Committee has on several occasions called on Russia to take action to protect human rights activists who are at risk of attacks.