Russian woman goes on trial over cafe bombing that killed prominent blogger

Suspect Darya Trepova stands in a glass cage as she attends a court hearing in the 1st Western District Military Court, in St. Petersburg, Russia on Wednesday
Suspect Darya Trepova stands in a glass cage as she attends a court hearing in the 1st Western District Military Court, in St. Petersburg, Russia on Wednesday Copyright Dmitri Lovetsky/The AP
By Saskia O'Donoghue with AP
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Darya Trepova faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted - but denies being knowingly involved in the incident which killed prominent military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky and injured 52 others.

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The trial against a 26-year-old woman in Russia kicked off on Wednesday.

Darya Trepova is charged with carrying out a terrorist attack, illegal trafficking of explosive devices and forging documents in a 2 April blast at a cafe in St. Petersburg in which one man was killed and 52 others injured.

Vladlen Tatarsky was the man allegedly killed by Trepova’s actions. He was a prominent Russian military blogger and died after he was given a bust of himself that later exploded.

Trepova was arrested shortly after the bombing and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

The late Tatarsky was an ardent supporter of the Kremlin’s military action in Ukraine and filed regular reports on the fighting from the front lines.

Trepova was seen on video presenting Tatarsky with the bust moments before the blast at the riverside cafe in the historic heart of Russia's second-largest city where he was leading a discussion.

Russian media have reported that Trepova told investigators she was asked to deliver the statuette but didn’t know what was inside it.

Trepova's 27-year-old acquaintance, Dmitry Kasintsev, is standing trial with her, although he is currently under house arrest.

She had stayed in his apartment after the blast and, as such, the authorities have charged him with concealment of a grave crime.

Russian authorities have blamed Ukrainian intelligence agencies for orchestrating the bombing.

Authorities in Kyiv have yet to directly respond to the accusation, but an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the bombing as part of Russia’s internal turmoil.

Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, charged that a Ukrainian citizen whom it identified as Yuriy Denysov had gathered information about 40-year-old Tatarsky and supplied Trepova with explosives through a courier service.

The FSB claimed that Denysov acted on orders from the Ukrainian security services.

Tatarsky was the pen name of Maxim Fomin. He had hundreds of thousands of followers on his Telegram messaging app channel. He had joined separatists in eastern Ukraine after a Moscow-backed insurgency erupted there in 2014 - and fought on the front lines for years before turning to blogging.

A framed photo of Vladlen Tatarsky at his grave at Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow
A framed photo of Vladlen Tatarsky at his grave at Troyekurovskoye cemetery in MoscowVlad Karkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Military bloggers have played an increasingly prominent role in Russia amid the fighting in Ukraine, supporting the Kremlin but often criticising Russia's military leadership and exposing various military flaws.

Unlike independent media or opposition figures, they haven't - so far - faced any crackdown for that criticism.

The FSB alleged Trepova was a supporter of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and that his top allies, Ivan Zhdanov and Leonid Volkov, have made repeated calls for subversive activities in Russia.

Zhdanov has alleged that authorities could try to use the explosion to extend Navalny’s prison term. The politician is currently serving 19 years in a penal colony east of Moscow after being convicted on extremism charges, which he alleges are false.

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In a letter to the St. Petersburg news outlet Bumaga, Trepova claimed a journalist and a military blogger she knew asked her to attend Tatarsky's speaking engagements as part of a journalistic investigation.

She claims she had no idea it would lead to a deadly explosion. She didn't identify that journalist in the letter.

“I didn't know I would be presenting (Tatarsky) with something,” Bumaga quoted Trepova as saying. “Morally, of course, it is very hard. I still can't believe in the reality of what had happened [sic].”

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