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Russia. St. Petersburg. Explosion in a cafe, Pro-Klema blogger Maksim Fonin – Vladlen Tatarski died. ISW analysis: this may be a warning for Yevgeny Prigozhin

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The murder of the Russian war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky (Maksim Fomin) in St. Petersburg may be a warning to the head of the mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, for criticizing the Kremlin and actions targeting even the Russian army in Ukraine, experts from the American Institute of War Studies (ISW) write in the latest report.

On Sunday evening, a Russian blogger and “war correspondent” Vladlen Tatarski (Maksim Fomin), known as an ardent advocate of the war against Ukraine, was killed during an author’s meeting held in one of St. Petersburg’s cafes. Tatarsky was killed by an explosive, and the Russian authorities immediately accused the Ukrainian side of the attack.

The presidential official from Kiev, Mykhailo Podolak, pointed out that the death of a prominent blogger was a sign of a growing conflict within Russian interest groups.

The Institute for War Studies stated that “the attack on Fomin may be a warning to the head of the mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who increasingly criticizes Russian propaganda theses about war in Ukraineand even indirectly signaled interest in the presidency of Russia“.

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Prigozhin is the head of the Wagner Group, who strengthened his position by sending mercenaries to the front, and regularly criticized the country’s military leadership against the backdrop of Russian failures. The killed blogger was believed to be associated with Prigozhin, and the attack took place in a cafe that he owned.

Yevgeny Prigozhin Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

“The murder of Fomin in Prigozhin’s bar is probably part of a larger scheme of escalation of Russian internal conflicts concerning Prigozhin and the Wagner Group” – assessed ISW analysts.

The Institute of Internal Affairs pointed out that the choice of the place – associated with Prigozhin – could have been intentional. The think tank also cited the opinion of Prigozhin himself, expressed after the coup. He said he “would not blame the Kiev regime” for the murder of Fomin and Daria Dugina, the daughter of Russian ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, last year.

As the ISW wrote, according to Prigozhin, a group of radicals unrelated to Kiev could have been behind the killing.

The cafe in St. Petersburg where the explosion took place PAP/EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV

Who was Maxim Fomin?

Fomin came from near Donetsk, and according to the media, he was convicted of a crime in the past and served time in prison. He sided with Russia at the beginning of the war Donbass in 2014, including he was supposed to fight at the front in illegal formations fighting against Kiev. His Telegram channel has about half a million subscribers, and he has risen to prominence in nationalist and pro-war circles.

During a Kremlin meeting on the occasion of the announcement of the illegal annexation of the four occupied regions Ukraine in September 2022, he “became famous” with the statement: “we will defeat everyone, we will kill everyone, we will rob everyone; everything will be the way we like it”. However, ISW pointed out that despite his great popularity, Fomin did not stand out from other war bloggers. His murder, according to the think tank, is the first high-profile attack on an influential blogger since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February last year.

St. Petersburg. The cafe where Vladlen Tatarsky died ICRF Press Service/EPA/PAP

“This cadre of war bloggers not only speaks, but represents a group critical of Putin’s war. ISW has long assessed that their role is a key factor in explaining Putin’s surprising level of tolerance. The coup may be evidence that Putin’s tolerance is waning, but it may also be due to Fomin’s close contacts with Prigozhin,” the think tank wrote.

According to ISW, the Russian authorities may use the killing to strengthen self-censorship in Russia. The murder will intensify divisions in Z-blogger circles, which will work in favor of the Kremlin, which is interested in further strengthening control over the information space, including by silencing authors critical of the dictator.

Main photo source: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

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