An explosion tore through a café in St. Petersburg, Russia on Sunday evening, injuring 30 people and killing Vladlen Tatarsky, a military blogger and boisterous supporter of the Russian war in Ukraine. The crowd gathered at the café—which was reportedly once owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the paramilitary group Wagner PMC—to watch a discussion with Tatarsky hosted by a pro-war group, Fontanka reported.
Tatarsky’s death highlights the rise of military bloggers during the war. As Russia has repressed open discussion—including by restricting what both traditional media and the public can say about the conflict—such bloggers have become a popular source of information, as the Moscow Times has reported. Writing on social networks like the messaging app Telegram, these bloggers, who often have ties to the Russian military or paramilitary groups like Wagner, share reporting from the frontlines and analysis— even, at times, criticizing Russian war strategy.
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Tatarsky’s popularity rapidly rose during the war, as he operated drones for pro-Russian forces and documented the conflict via social media. On Telegram, his followers rose from about 30,000 (per Meduza) to over 500,000 today. In April 2022, he called for the “complete destruction of the Ukrainian state” and declared that Russia should place its flag on Ukraine’s border with Poland in an interview in Russian with Business Online. He rose to even greater prominence after he attended a Kremlin ceremony in September 2022 in which Putin formally annexed Ukrainian territory, per the BBC. From inside the Kremlin, Tatarsky recorded a video, declaring, “We will defeat everyone, we will kill everyone, we will rob everyone as necessary. Just as we like it,” which he posted on Telegram.
Tatarsky was born as Maxim Yurievich Fomin in Makiivka, Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast, in 1982. Like many military bloggers, he published under a nom de plume—in his case, a modification of the name Vavilen Tatarsky, the protagonist of the novel “Generation P” by Russian author Victor Pelevin.
Tatarsky’s father, a miner, was a “Russian patriot” and raised him to feel the same way, Tatarsky said in the 2022 interview. As an adult, he worked in a mine and owned furniture stores, according to the Bell, but in 2011 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for an armed bank robbery and served time at a prison colony in Horlivka, Ukraine, Meduza reported.
In 2014, amid warfare between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the colony took artillery fire, and Tatarsky fled to join the pro-Russian separatists, the Bell reported. He was eventually brought back to a colony, but he was pardoned by the leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic at the time, he said in the 2022 interview.
In around 2016, he began to write for pro-Russian groups on the Russian social media site VKontakte, and in 2017 he launched a blog, where he published reports on the conflict and interviews with separatists, Meduza said. Tatarsky moved to Moscow to work as a blogger in 2019, although he returned to Ukraine in February 2022, shortly before the invasion.
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