The St. Petersburg cafe where a bomb killed Russian military blogger Maxim Fomin, April 2, 2023
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1856 GMT:
Ukraine has received the first $2.7bn tranche of funds in a 4-year, $15.6 billion loan program from the International Monetary Fund.
The IMF Executive Board approved the Extended Fund Facility last Friday as part of a global $115 billion package of support.
UPDATE 1838 GMT:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, and Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric have visited a village in north Ukraine where residents were held in a school basement by Russian troops for 27 days.
Zelenskiy paid tribute to the residents of Yahidne, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last spring. The captives were kept in a space of less than 200 square meters. Eleven of them died.
“These people somehow lived and waited for Ukraine in the dark,” said Zelenskiy. “They lived standing and sitting.”
It’s important to see this and to be in these basements to understand whether to help Ukraine or to keep thinking how to find a way to talk with Russia….
Having seen all this, I can wish the President of Russia to spend the rest of his days in a basement with a bucket for a toilet.
He wrote on Telegram, “I want to thank the residents of Yahidne. They endured torture, a terrible path, the path of absolute heroes. I thank Ukraine for having such fighters for life.”
UPDATE 1822 GMT:
Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed overnight that his mercenaries now control most of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, raising the Russian flag over the city’s administration building.
However, he has made similar statements in the months that his forces have spent assaulting Bakhmut, and Ukrainian officials say their troops still control the western part of the city.
I analyzed the situation, including why Prigozhin may have made the statement amid his in-fighting with Russian officials.
UPDATE 1300 GMT:
Poland has delivered the first group of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
The Polish President’s head of international policy, Marcin Przydacz, said in a radio interview, “This process has already been completed, i.e., the transfer of this first part. Of course, there will be talks about possible further support.”
President Andrzej Duda said last month said Poland would send four MiG-29s to Ukraine initially. Warsaw has 12 of the warplanes, having obtained in the early 1990s from the East German military.
UPDATE 1252 GMT:
Finland will officially join NATO on Tuesday.
The Finnish President’s office tweeted:
Finland becomes a Member of NATO on Tuesday, 4 April 2023.
— TPKanslia (@TPKanslia) April 3, 2023
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the accession “will be a good day for Finland’s security, for Nordic security and for NATO as a whole”.
He added that Finnish membership “is also good for Sweden”, whose accession is being held up by the Governments of Turkey and Hungary.
UPDATE 1011 GMT:
Russian authorities have published a video “confession” by Darya Trepova, the anti-war activist accused of the bombing of a St. Petersburg cafe and assassination of military blogger Maksim Fomin.
Trepova says, “I brought in the bust [statuette] that exploded.” Asked “Who gave it to you?”, she replies, “Can I answer later?”.
UPDATE 0620 GMT:
Concerned about potential defections and leaks of information, Russian security forces are reportedly confiscating the passports of senior officials and state company executives.
“Several people familiar with the matter” say the Kremlin and the State security service FSB are increasingly worried about the loyalty of the Russian elite.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Russia has tightened its restrictions on foreign travel for some workers in “sensitive” areas.
Last week Russian officials were shaken by an audio recording of a phone conversation between Russian music producer Iosif Prigozhin and billionaire politician Farhad Akhmedov.
“[Putin] doesn’t give a fuck about anything. And he doesn’t give a fuck about the people. He’s fucking Satan. Wimp,” says one of the men.
He continues, “How will we clean all this up later? Fascism will be here, a military dictatorship. You’ll see. That’s how it’s going to end.” The other man agrees.
Prigozhin has claimed that the claimed remarks are a distortion of the conversation.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Russia has been rocked by the bombing of a St. Petersburg cafe, killing a prominent Russian military blogger and wounding 32 people, 10 of them seriously.
Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, died soon after he was handed a box with a statuette by a woman in a public meeting on Sunday evening. Russian State media said the explosive was inside the gift.
Fomin was speaking to an audience of about 100 on “what it’s like to report from hot spots while under a hail of bullets and what it means to be a military correspondent”.
Propagandist who called to kill all Ukrainians dies in St. Petersburg cafe blast
Vladlen Tatarsky, 🇺🇦citizen, joined 🇷🇺military after occupation of Donetsk Oblast. Later, collaborator started blog that aimed at fueling hatred toward Ukrainehttps://t.co/gQNS9dUOgt📽️ by Sledskom pic.twitter.com/ACT3rOOcZK
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) April 3, 2023
The “milbloggers” are usually veterans, and some are on the frontline in Ukraine. They are the forefront of Russian discussion of the state of Vladimir Putin’s invasion, with Fomin followed by more than 560,000 people on Telegram.
The meeting was in a cafe owned by Wagner Group mercenaries, increasingly used by the Russian military on Ukraine’s frontlines since last autumn. The ultranationalist Russian group Cyber Front Z organized the event.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assassination, prompting further uncertainty and discord.
A St Petersburg woman, Darya Trepova, has been arrested on suspicion of involvement. However, that may be a pretext for a crackdown on dissent, as Russian State media said she had been detained previously for participation in anti-war rallies.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova preferred to blame claiming Fomin’s prominence — he co-hosted a television program and was regularly featured on Russian State TV — “won him the hatred of the Kyiv regime”.
Zakharova offered no evidence for her claim, and there is no apparent reason why Fomin, rather than another leading milblogger, would have been picked out by the Ukrainians.
Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin said he would “not blame the Kyiv regime”. Instead, he declared that a “group of radicals” are the suspects.
The Outcome of Russian In-Fighting?
Ukrainian Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak pointed to Russian in-fighting as the cause of the bombing.
It begins in RF… Spiders are eating each other in a jar. Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time, as breakthrough of ripe abscess. Irreversible processes and Troubles 2.0. await RF. While we will watch.
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) April 2, 2023
While Kyiv’s interest will be in playing up Russian divisions, there is support for the theory of a domestic attack.
Fomin was critical of Russian military amid the stalling invasion and Ukraine’s counter-offensive liberating territory last autumn. He called for a tribunal to try commanders, saying they were “untrained idiots”.
Wagner’s Prigozhin is in a rivalry with other Russian leaders, including Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and commanders, for influence in Moscow. While his mercenaries have been at the forefront of Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine, Prigozhin has accused the “monstrous bureaucracy” of treason, starving the fighters of ammunition, equipment, and other resources.
The Institute for the Study of War summarizes:
Fomin’s assassination may have been intended as a warning to Prigozhin, who has been increasingly questioning core Kremlin talking points about the war in Ukraine and even obliquely signaling an interest in the Russian presidency, whether in competition with Putin or as his successor.