The National Republican Army (NRA), an alleged underground partisan group of Russian nationals working inside the Russian Federation toward the violent overthrow of Vladimir Putin’s government, has claimed responsibility for a bombing in St. Petersburg that killed a prominent pro-Kremlin war blogger and injured 32 others.
“We organized and carried out an action on April 2, 2023, against a group of Z-activists and personally against the well-known warmonger and war propagandist, war criminal Maxim Fomin, known as Vladlen Tatarsky,” NRA said in a statement relayed by the Telegram channel RosPartizan.
The group, which also claimed responsibility for the assassination of Darya Dugina—and which some experts observers doubt actually exists—wrote in its statement:
This action was prepared and carried out by us autonomously, and we have no connection and have not received assistance from any foreign structures, let alone special services. This action was carried out in a club owned by one of the most famous Russian gangsters and criminals, Yevgeny Prigozhin. As a result of the action the club will stop its work. We are satisfied with this. The action we carried out was not directed against civilians, and all the victims are among the active supporters of the war, justifying the war crimes of the Putin regime in Ukraine.
As was the case in the murder of Darya Dugina, the alleged group failed to offer anything in the way of concrete evidence that they were in fact behind Tatarsky’s assassination. The claim has therefore been met with skepticism by security experts.
RosPartizan is an aggregator for information pertaining to the resistance to Putin and the war in Ukraine and serves as a recruitment tool for anti-Putin dissidents as well. It is administered by Roman Popkov, an exiled former leader of Russia’s National Bolshevik party who is close to Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of the Russian State Duma turned exiled dissident. Ponomarev claims to be an international spokesperson for the NRA.
“I know the people who organized the murder of Tatarsky, I had known about the preparations for the attack in advance,” Ponomarev said in an interview earlier this week. “I welcome such actions… they eliminate war criminals and their aides,” he added.
A day after the bombing, on Monday, April 3rd, 26-year-old Darya Trepova, who was filmed at the St. Petersburg event giving Tatarsky a bust of himself filled with explosives, was taken into police custody and charged with carrying out the attack. The same day, Trepova, in a video released by Russian authorities, admitted that she brought the bust to the café but claimed she was unaware it was filled with explosives. The 26-year-old is set to remain in custody until June 2nd when she will have a court hearing.
Russia’s Investigative Committee claims it has evidence that the bombing had been organized by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) with the assistance of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.
Wagner PMC chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, however, has dismissed the notion that Ukraine had anything to do with the Tatarsky’s murder, saying “I would not blame the Kyiv regime for these actions,” and saying instead that he thinks the bombing was carried out by “a group of radicals.
Alexei Baranovsky, an assistant of Ponomarev in Kyiv, told Newsweek: “We do not know who Darya Trepova is, the contact was not with her.”
“But in any case, we respect Trepova as an opposition activist, a fighter for women’s rights, and we wish her a speedy release. And we will make every effort to do so,” he added.
Tatarsky, with his more than 500,000 followers on Telegram, was among the most well-known and influential military bloggers who have provided running commentary on the war in Ukraine. The 44-year-old criticized the Kremlin’s war from the Right, and often urged it to pursue a more aggressive strategy, leading some to believe that the Russian government itself is responsible for its murder.