Saturday, February 24, 2024

Russian court jails woman for 27 years over killing of pro-Kremlin blogger | Russia-Ukraine war News

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Darya Trepova was found guilty of killing Vladlen Tatarsky, who died in a blast at a St Petersburg cafe in April 2023.

A Russian court has sentenced antiwar activist Darya Trepova to 27 years in prison for killing a prominent ultra-nationalist blogger in an attack that Moscow said was orchestrated by Ukraine.

In April last year, Vladlen Tatarsky was killed in a St Petersburg cafe after Trepova gave him a miniature statue rigged with explosives. As he accepted the gift, the outspoken commentator was killed on the spot.

The court in St Petersburg convicted Trepova on “terrorism” charges on Thursday.

The 26-year-old defended herself saying she did not purposefully kill Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, but was induced to believe the object she handed him was a secret listening device.

Earlier this week, the activist told the court she was acting under orders from a man in Ukraine whom she knew as “Gestalt” (German for “Shape”), who had been sending her money and instructions for several months.

“I feel great pain and shame that my gullibility and my naivety led to such catastrophic consequences. I didn’t want to hurt anyone,” Trepova said.

Her decision to collaborate with Ukrainians was motivated by her opposition to Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, she said.

More than 30 other people were injured in the blast, which tore off the facade of the St Petersburg cafe.

Tremova told the court she had explicitly asked her handler in Ukraine if the statue was a bomb.

“I was very scared and asked Gestalt: ‘Isn’t this the same as with Daria Dugina?’” she said, referring to the daughter of an influential pro-war Russian nationalist who was assassinated in a car bombing attack in the Russian capital in 2022.

A portrait of Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky is placed among flowers near the site where he was killed in St Petersburg, Russia [File: Anton Vaganov/Reuters]

‘Internal terrorism’

Tatarsky was an influential military blogger, one of the most prominent among a group of hardline correspondents that have gained a huge following since Russia launched its offensive in Ukraine in February 2022.

They publish exclusive information about the campaign from front-line sources and occasionally criticise Moscow’s military tactics, pushing for a more aggressive assault.

Born in eastern Ukraine, Tatarsky was a convicted bank robber who escaped from prison to fight with Russian-backed separatists against Ukraine’s armed forces when the conflict in the east first broke out in 2014.

He advocated for a much more aggressive military campaign against Ukraine.

Putin posthumously bestowed a top award, the Order of Courage, on Tatarsky, citing his “courage and bravery shown during professional duty”.

After his murder, Russian authorities accused Ukraine of orchestrating the killing.

Senior Ukrainian officials have neither claimed responsibility nor denied involvement, with presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak describing it as “internal terrorism”.

Moscow has accused Ukraine of staging several attacks and assassinations inside Russia, including the killing of Dugina and the failed car bombing attack against pro-Kremlin writer Zakhar Prilepin.

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