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Russian woman jailed for 27 years for cafe bomb killing

It comes as Igor Girkin, a Russian pro-war ultranationalist, is sentenced to four years after claiming the war in Ukraine had not gone far enough

Tom Watling
Thursday 25 January 2024 19:27 GMT
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Darya Trepova sentenced to 27 years for bombing that killed Russian prominent military blogger
Darya Trepova sentenced to 27 years for bombing that killed Russian prominent military blogger (REUTERS)

A Russian woman has been jailed for 27 years for delivering a bomb that exploded in the hands of a pro-war military blogger, killing him on the spot.

Darya Trepova, 26, was convicted by a St Petersburg court of charges including terrorism in connection with the death of blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, last April. Trepova, 26, denied the charges, saying she thought the statuette contained a listening device and claiming that she had acted on the orders of a Ukrainian contact, and was set up.

Tatarsky was killed by a bomb concealed inside a statuette in his likeness that Trepova had presented to him as a gift during a talk he was giving in a St Petersburg cafe.

It comes as a prominent Russian ultranationalist was sentenced in Moscow to four years in a penal colony for inciting extremism after he accused the Kremlin of not going far enough in its war against Ukraine.

Igor Girkin, who goes by the name Igor Strelkov, was convicted by the Moscow City court on Thursday as his supporters campaigned outside the court. Videos posted by Russian state media outlet Mash showed Girkin laughing behind the glass screen in the court as he was being sentenced.

Igor Girkin (Strelkov), the former top military commander of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" and nationalist blogger charged with extremism, sits inside a glass defendants' cage ahead of his verdict hearing at the Moscow City Court (AFP via Getty Images)

Three of his supporters, holding signs outside the court, were later arrested, according to local reports.

Trepova and Girkin’s cases, though distinctly different, come as the Kremlin seeks a hard line on cases connected to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian investigators previously accused Kyiv of being behind the pro-war blogger Tatarsky death, though Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak described it as “internal terrorism”.

Trepova later told the trial she had been acting under the orders of a man in Ukraine who she knew as “Gestalt”, which is German for “Shape”, who had been sending her money and instructions for several months before the cafe bombing.

She has claimed she did not know there was a bomb in the statuette, telling the court that she feels “great pain and shame that my gullibility and my naivety led to such catastrophic consequences”.

Tatarsky was a eastern Ukrainian-born former member of the Russian-backed separatists that sided with the Kremlin instead of Kyiv. He later became a leading member of the pro-war military blogger community on Telegram, with around half a million followers.

The prosecution in Trepova’s trial argued that she had “acted deliberately with the aim of destabilising the Russian Federation and discrediting the special military operation”.

Girkin, meanwhile, has been imprisoned after accusing Putin and the army top brass of not pursuing the Ukraine war effectively enough, arguing that their poor military tactics have unnecessarily caused the deaths of Russian soldiers in Ukraine. He briefly joined a volunteer unit fighting in Ukraine in October 2022.

In April last year, Girkin, who by this point had also become a prominent military commentator on Telegram, founded the Club of Angry Patriots, a hardline pro-war group. He then became increasingly anti-Kremlin before eventually calling out Putin directly.

His case has been closely watched as an indication of how far the Kremlin will tolerate aggressive criticism of its war effort in Ukraine - even when it comes from pro-war figures.

Dozens of Igor Girkin’s supporters gather outside the Moscow City Court on Thursday during his verdict (EPA)

In one of Girkin’s most outspoken tirades, in a post on 18 July on his official Telegram channel, followed by more than 760,000 people, Girkin peppered Putin with personal insults and urged him to pass power “to someone truly capable and responsible”. He was arrested three days later.

The ultranationalist has also publicly entertained ideas about running against Putin in an upcoming presidential election, which is due to take place next month.

A former officer for Russia's FSB security service and battlefield commander, Girkin helped Russia to annex Crimea in 2014. He went on to lead Russia's proxy army in the ensuing war in eastern Ukraine.

Girkin was one of three men convicted in absentia by a Dutch court last November of murder for his role in a missile strike in 2014 that downed a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet – MH17 – over the conflict area, with the loss of all 298 people on board.

Piet Ploeg, who heads a foundation representing Dutch MH17 victims, said he had mixed feelings over Girkin’s sentencing on Thursday.

“It feels very double – he is jailed but not for the right reasons. He should be in a Dutch prison for his role in the MH17 shoot-down, and not for voicing his opinion,” Ploeg, whose brother, sister-in-law and nephew were killed in the MH17 crash, told the Guardian. “Unfortunately, he might never face the justice he deserves in the Netherlands.”

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