Newly published videos show the moments leading up to an explosion that killed Russian ultranationalist military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in a St. Petersburg cafe on Sunday.
Tatarsky died when a blast tore through the cafe where he was appearing as a guest of a pro-war group. Russian state media reports suggest that Tatarsky may have been killed by a device hidden in a figurine presented to him by a woman before the blast.
One 25-second video shows Tatarsky standing with the event’s host receiving an unexpected gift. Video shows the blogger taking the statuette out of a box – a small figurine painted gold and wearing a combat helmet in his likeness.
Russian investigators believe it may have been the bomb that killed him just seconds later.
The footage then pans over to a woman in the audience, purportedly 26-year-old Daria Trepova, who has since been arrested in connection with the explosion, according to the Investigative Committee of Russia. Russian state media TASS reported that “preliminarily, it was Trepova who handed Tatarsky a figurine with explosives” at the cafe.
A hearing for Trepova is set to take place on Tuesday at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow, according to Russian state news agency Vesti.
A witness said Trepova gave the statuette to the event’s host, before moving to a different part of the room. The video itself does not show her handing the statue to the host and CNN is not able to independently verify the claims.
Another clip, shot from further back in the room, appears to show an interaction between Trepova and Tatarsky before the blast.
At one point Tatarsky calls her Nastya – not her real name. After the statuette is presented, she turns to return to her seat toward the back of the hall, but Tatarsky calls her to sit near the front, which she does.
“Sit here or here. Sit over on the chair,” Tatarsky said to her.
“I’ll sit over there. I am too shy,” she replied.
At least 32 people were injured in the blast, with 10 people in serious condition, state media Ria Novosti reported, citing the Russian Ministry of Health.
Security cameras recording outside caught the explosion tearing through the building, blowing out the cafe’s windows and frontage.
No evidence has yet been presented about who carried out the bombing.
Russia’s interior ministry added Trepova to a wanted list following the explosion, and her arrest was announced on Telegram by the Investigative Committee of Russia shortly after.
The ministry then released a video of the suspect in custody, identified by Russian authorities as Trepova. In the video, a male voice asks the woman if she understands why she has been detained. She replies in the affirmative, and said she was detained for being at the scene of the murder of Vladlen Tatarsky.
A male interrogator then asks Trepova what she did at the cafe. She replies that she brought the figurine, but declined to answer who gave it to her.
The video was selectively released by the Russian authorities and it’s unclear if she was speaking under duress.
Human-rights advocates and international observers say Russian police routinely use torture and ill treatment to extract confessions, and Russia’s security service uses coercion and entrapment to recruit informants among Russia’s opposition groups.
Trepova’s husband, Dmitry Rylov, told an independent Russian publication that he is convinced his wife was framed.
“She was really just set up and used,” Rylov was quoted as saying by The Insider.
According to Russian state news agency TASS, Trepova was arrested in the early days of Russia’s war in Ukraine for demonstrating against it, and sentenced to 10 days in prison.
Her husband was a member of the Libertarian Party of Russia, TASS said. Trepova, however, was not associated with the small political party and the Libertarian Party has denied she was ever a member or supporter.
Within Russia, suspicion has fallen on Ukrainian special services, informal Russian opposition groups and associates of the jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny, though his supporters have denied having anything to do with the explosion.
Russia’s Investigative Committee for St. Petersburg said it had opened a murder investigation but later reclassified the criminal case as a terrorist act, claiming that “the planning and organization” of the killing was “carried out from the territory of Ukraine.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also called the explosion a “terrorist attack” and accused Ukraine of being behind it. “There is evidence that the Ukrainian special services may be involved in the planning of this terrorist attack,” Peskov said.
Ukraine has said little about the explosion, beyond blaming in-fighting in Russia. On Monday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declined to make any comment about the blast.
Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was one of Russia’s most outspoken and ultranationalist military bloggers, known for his ardent pro-war commentary and occasional criticism of Moscow’s battlefield failures. He amassed a large following on the social media platform Telegram for his commentary on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.