Well-known Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky has been killed in a blast in a cafe in St Petersburg, according to Russian news agencies, quoting sources as saying it was caused by an exexplosive device.
Russian news reports said Tatarsky was killed in the explosion at the Street Food Bar No. 1 cafe on Sunday. 25 were wounded, and 19 of them were hospitalised, according to the regional governor, Alexander Beglov.
Tatarsky is the pen name for Maxim Fomin, who had accumulated more than 560,000 followers on Telegram and was one of the most prominent of the influential military bloggers who have provided an often critical running commentary on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
He was among hundreds of attendees at a lavish Kremlin ceremony last September to proclaim Russia’s annexation of four partly occupied regions of Ukraine, a move that most countries at the United Nations condemned as illegal.
A St Petersburg website said the explosion took place at a cafe that had at one time belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group of mercenaries fighting for Russia in Ukraine.
Russia media and military bloggers said Tatarsky was meeting with members of the public and that a woman presented him with a box containing a statuette that apparently exploded.
A patriotic Russian group that organised the event said it had taken security precautions, but added that “regrettably, they proved insufficient”.
Russia’s state Investigative Committee said it had opened a murder investigation. There was no indication of who was responsible.
The Interior Ministry said everyone at the cafe at the time of the blast was being “checked for involvement”.
Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari reporting from Moscow said there were at least 100 people in and around the cafe for the event organised by the “Cyber Front Z Movement”, where Tatarsky was speaking.