Russia’s FSB security service has arrested an anti-Kremlin dissident for the murder of a prominent nationalist propagandist, Russian media has reported.
Daria Trepova, 26, is alleged to be an opponent of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and a supporter of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexander Navalny.
She was detained briefly at an anti-war rally in February 2022, the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Fontanka, a St Petersburg news website, said that Russia’s FSB security service arrested Ms Trepova in a rented apartment in the city. Her mother and sister were also detained by the Russian security forces and interrogated.
Ms Trepova is accused of murdering Vladlen Tatarsky, a Kremlin propagandist, with a bomb hidden in a statue that exploded as he was giving a talk in a St Petersburg cafe on Sunday afternoon.
“Investigators are establishing the motives of Daria Trepova, who was detained on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Vladlen Tatarsky,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Pro-Kremlin Telegram channels published several photos of Ms Trepova, as well as a video of her delivering a package to the cafe where Mr Tatarsky was killed.
Eyewitnesses said they saw Ms Trepova give a bust containing the bomb to Mr Tatarsky before it exploded.
Her husband is Dmitry Rylov, an anti-Kremlin opposition activist who now lives in exile. He said he thought his wife was being set up by the security services.
“I am completely sure that she would never have been able to do something like this on her own. Yes, Daria and I do not support the war in Ukraine, but we believe that such actions are unacceptable,” Mr Rylov told the SVTV News project.
Meanwhile, the Baza Telegram channel, which is closely connected to the Russian security services, said that Ms Trepova was a member of various feminist groups, quoting security sources.
It also said that Ms Trepova’s social media feeds showed she had been fantasising about suicide since Russia invaded Ukraine, and that she planned to leave the country, like hundreds of thousands of other Russians.
“The explosive was activated, most likely with the help of a radio signal,” Baza reported. “The bust of Tatarsky was an ideal way to disguise it as the IED easily fitted inside its hollow.”
Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was the second high-profile Kremlin propagandist to be killed in mainland Russia since the start of the war. He had 560,000 followers on his Telegram channel.
A car bomb killed Darya Dugina, a pro-war journalist, outside Moscow in August. The US intelligence services blamed Ukrainian special forces for killing Ms Dugina.
Kremlin supporters had also initially blamed the Ukrainian government for the assassination of Tatarsky, but the focus has now switched to an attack linked to internal Russian disputes.
Some commentators have suggested that the assassination may have been meant as a warning to Mr Tatarsky’s ally Yevgeny Prigrozhin, the head of the Kremlin’s Wagner mercenary group, who has made many enemies in the Russian establishment.
In a response to a journalist’s question, Mr Prigozhin also said that he thought it was unlikely that Ukraine was behind the murder.
“I would not blame the Kyiv regime for these actions. I think that there is a group of radicals unrelated to the government. That’s how I would describe it,” he said.