Russia sentences woman to 27 years in bomb assassination of blogger

Russian courts on Thursday imposed prison sentences in two telling cases connected to the war in Ukraine, with one serving as a threat to pro-war Russians who criticize the military’s performance on the battlefield and another, much harsher sentence, as warning that Russians aiding Kyiv in this war will see no mercy.

In St. Petersburg, a military court sentenced Daria Trepova, a young antiwar activist, to 27 years in prison on terrorism charges connected to the killing of a prominent pro-war blogger in a cafe, the harshest known sentence for a woman in modern Russian history.

Trepova, 26, was arrested last spring and accused of giving a statuette with a bomb inside to Maxim Fomin, a pro-war commentator and Telegram blogger with over half a million followers, better known by his pen name Vladlen Tatarsky. Fomin died in the blast.

Russian investigators said Trepova collaborated with a Ukrainian “sabotage and terrorism group” who gave her various tasks and requested that she track Tatarsky, his fans, and Cyber Front Z, a pro-invasion online troll group that described itself as the “digital troops of Russia.”

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In videos released by authorities and published on local media, Trepova was shown handing Tatarsky the golden statuette, which promptly exploded. Other video showed her leaving the cafe in St. Petersburg where the incident occurred.

In court, Trepova maintained that she did not know the figurine contained explosives and believed it contained a listening device. She said she believed her mission was to establish audio surveillance on Tatarsky.

“I didn’t know who Vladlen Tatarsky was,” said in her final statement to the court this week. “When we met him in person, he seemed good-natured to me, a man with a sense of humor. I didn’t hate him. I definitely didn’t want him to die.” She added, “I am very hurt and very ashamed. My gullibility and naiveté led to such disastrous consequences. I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”

On Thursday, Trepova was found guilty on three counts: staging a terrorist attack orchestrated by a group of people that resulted in death, trafficking illegal explosives, and forging documents. The court also fined her about $6,700 and sentenced a man who allowed her to spend the night in his apartment after the blast to one year and nine months.

In a separate case in Moscow on Thursday, Igor Girkin, a former military commander, Russian federal security officer and prominent pro-war blogger who criticized President Vladimir Putin’s approach to the war on Ukraine, was sentenced to four years in prison on extremism charges.

As an FSB agent, Girkin participated in Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea and helped foment war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Last year, he was convicted by a Dutch court in absentia of murder in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a passenger jet shot down over Ukraine.

But Girkin, whose nom de guerre is Igor Strelkov, was never arrested in Russia over the plane incident, which killed all 298 passengers and crew members onboard. Instead, he got in trouble with the Kremlin over interviews and blog posts that accused Putin and his top military brass of not being decisive or effective enough during the invasion of Ukraine.

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Girkin became one of the loudest voices among nationalist hawks who grew deeply disenchanted with what they saw as Putin’s lackluster warmongering.

Eventually, a criminal case was launched against him over two Telegram posts in which Girkin said he was concerned about Russia’s hold on Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014, and about the delays in payments to family members of pro-Russian fighters, according to Kommersant, a Russian newspaper.

His arrest last year on extremism charges signaled that Putin’s government, which crushed antiwar protesters but tolerated criticism from war supporters, would no longer tolerate even ideologically loyal critics.

The Moscow City Court on Thursday ruled that Girkin was guilty of “public calls to carry out extremist activities.”

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