A Russian war propagandist who called for the destruction of Ukraine was killed in a bomb attack in St Petersburg.
Video shows the moment pro-Putin cheerleaderVladlen Tatarsky, whose real name isMaxim Fomin, was handed a statuette of himself by an unnamed woman that was believed to have contained the explosive just minutes before he was blown to bits at the political event in the cafe.
Around 100 people were at the event, with at least 25 injured by the blast and four in a critical condition.
No group came forward to claim responsibility for the death, which could be the second political assassination of a pro-Putin Russian on Russian soil since the war started. Analysts in the country speculated that the attack was carried out by the Ukrainian secret service.
It is not known if the woman who handed him the statue, which Russian media said was a gold-coloured likeness of Tatarskiy and contained 200g of TNT, was aware of its contents.
Well-known Russian military bloggerVladlen Tatarsky (pictured) was killedin a bomb blast in a cafe in St Petersburg on Sunday
The moment of the explosion that killed Kremlin top war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky and wounded more dozens of people
This is the moment Tatarskywas handed a statuette that is believed to have been hiding the bomb that exploded atStreet Food Bar No. 1
Putin zealot Alexander Dugin, posted a picture of his daughterDarya Dugina (left) with Tatarsky (right) and wrote: 'This is how the history of real Russian saints is created. Real. Not fictitious. Not sucked from the finger. Beating from the heart. If it is not holiness, then there is no holiness'.
In remarks recorded on video, a witness said that a woman who identified herself as Nastya asked questions and exchanged remarks with Tatarsky during the discussion.
The witness, Alisa Smotrova, quoted Nastya as saying she had made a bust of the blogger but that guards asked her to leave it at the door, suspecting it could be a bomb. Nastya and Tatarsky joked and laughed. She then went to the door, grabbed the bust and presented it to Tatarsky.
He reportedly put the bust on a nearby table, and the explosion followed. Smotrova described people running in panic, some hurt by shattered glass and covered in blood.
A video posted on Russian messaging app channels showed the cafe after the explosion. Tables and chairs were broken and stained by blood, and shards of glass littered the floor.
Russian media said investigators were looking at the bust as the possible source of the blast but have not ruled out the possibility that an explosive device was planted in the cafe before the event.
Russia's Investigative Committee, the state's top criminal investigation agency, opened a probe on charges of murder.
No one publicly claimed responsibility, but military bloggers and patriotic commentators immediately pointed a finger at Ukraine and compared the bombing to the killing last August of Darya Dugina, a nationalist TV commentator. She was killed when a remotely controlled explosive device planted in her SUV blew up as she was driving on the outskirts of Moscow.
Tatarsky was killed in a blast at Street Food Bar No. 1, located in the St Petersburg city centre, on Sunday
It is understood that the blast was 'caused by an improvised explosive device hidden inside a statue given to Tatarsky as a gift'. Russian media has shared a photo of a young woman (pictured) suspected to have given Tatarsky the figurine
Before the blast on Sunday,Tatarsky (pictured) spoke toa party in front of projection of an image of him
Russian authorities blamed Ukraine's military intelligence for Dugina's death, but Kyiv denied involvement.
Her father, Alexander Dugin, a nationalist philosopher and political theorist who strongly supports the invasion of Ukraine, hailed Tatarsky as an 'immortal' hero who died to save the Russian people.
'There must be no talks with the terrorists other than about their unconditional surrender,' Dugin said. 'A victory parade must take place in Kyiv.'
Since the fighting in Ukraine began Feb. 24, 2022, Ukrainian authorities have refrained from claiming responsibility for various fires and explosions and apparent assassinations in Russia. At the same time, officials in Kyiv have jubilantly greeted such events and insisted on Ukraine's right to launch attacks in Russia.
A top Ukrainian government official cast the explosion that killed Tatarsky as part of internal turmoil.
'Spiders are eating each other in a jar,' Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote in English on Twitter. 'Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time.'
Tatarsky, who had filed regular reports from Ukraine, was the pen name for Maxim Fomin, who had accumulated more than 560,000 followers on his Telegram messaging app channel.
Born in the Donbas, Ukraine's industrial heartland, Tatarsky worked as a coal miner before starting a furniture business. When he ran into financial difficulties, he robbed a bank and was sentenced to prison. He fled from custody after a Russia-backed separatist rebellion engulfed the Donbas in 2014, weeks after Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Then he joined separatist rebels and fought on the front line before turning to blogging.
Tatarsky was known for his blustery pronouncements and ardent pro-war rhetoric.
After the Kremlin's annexation of four regions of Ukraine last year that most of the world rejected as illegal, Tatarsky posted a video in which he vowed: 'That's it. We'll defeat everybody, kill everybody, rob everybody we need to. It will all be the way we like it. God be with you.'
Military bloggers have played an increasingly prominent and influential role in the flow of information about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They have almost universally championed the goals of the campaign but at times criticize Russian military strategy and tactical decisions.
At the same time, the Kremlin has squelched alternative voices opposing the war by shutting down news outlets, limiting the public's access to information and jailing critics.
The restaurant once belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private army that is fighting for Russia in Ukraine.
A group called Cyber Front Z, which refers to itself on social media as 'Russia's information troops', said it had hired out the cafe for the evening.The building's facade was reportedly damaged in the blast.
'There was a terrorist attack. We took certain security measures but unfortunately they were not enough,' the group said on Telegram.
'Condolences to everyone who knew the excellent war correspondent and our friend Vladlen Tatarsky,' it said.
Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-installed leader of the part of Ukraine's Donetsk province that is occupied by Russia, suggested publicly that Ukraine was to blame.
'He was killed vilely. Terrorists cannot do otherwise. The Kyiv regime is a terrorist regime. It needs to be destroyed, there's no other way to stop it,' he said.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser said 'domestic terrorism' was breaking out in Russia.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, wrote on Twitter that it had only been a matter of time - 'like the bursting of a ripe abscess' - before Russia would be consumed by what he called domestic terrorism.
'The spiders are eating each other in a jar,' he said.
The explosion had a power of 200 grams of TNT, law enforcement officials said. Pictured: The damaged exterior ofStreet Food Bar No. 1 in St Petersburg following Sunday's explosion
A group called Cyber Front Z, which refers to itself as 'Russia's information troops', said it had hired out the cafe for the evening. Pictured: The interior of the cafe after the blast
The restaurant once belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private army that is fighting for Russia in Ukraine. Pictured: An interior view of the cafe after the bombing
Pictured: Medics care for the wounded outside ofStreet Food Bar No. 1 in St Petersburg following Sunday's explosion
War'reporter' Tatarsky was one of the biggest cheerleaders for Putin's war and the destruction of Ukraine as a separate nation.
His Telegram channel had more than 560,000 followers and he was recognised as one of the most prominent of the influential military bloggers to have provided an often critical running commentary on the war.
Russia's foreign ministry on Sunday paid tribute to a prominent military blogger killed by a bomb at a cafe in St Petersburg on Sunday, lashing out at Western governments for failing to react to the attack.
Bloggers like Vladlen Tatarsky 'are defenders of the truth', ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram, adding that the lack of reaction from Western governments 'despite their concerns for the welfare of journalists and the free press speaks for itself'.
'Russian journalists constantly feel the threat of reprisals from the Kyiv regime,' she said.
'It is thanks to Russian war correspondents that the world sees true, operational images and finds out what is happening in Ukraine,' she said.
Tatarsky was 'dangerous' for Ukraine 'but bravely went on until the end, fulfilling his duty', she added.
War 'reporter' Tatarsky (pictured) was one of the biggest cheerleaders for Putin's war and the destruction of Ukraine as a separate nation
Pictured: Firefighters work at the scene of an explosion atStreet Food Bar No. 1 in St Petersburg on Sunday night
Pictured: A law enforcement officer stands guard Sunday night as investigators probe the scene of an explosion that killedblogger Vladlen Tatarsky
Pictured: Investigators are at Street Food Bar No. 1 in St Petersburg on Sunday night after an explosion damaged the building and apparently blew out its windows
Several hours before the explosion, Tatarsky had praised advertising hoardings in Moscow seeking recruits for Wagner fighters.
'It's nice to see such outdoor advertising,' he said.
Before becoming a propagandist, he had been a fighter in the battles in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
He was among hundreds of attendees at a lavish Kremlin ceremony last September to proclaim Russia's annexation of four partly occupied regions of Ukraine, a move that most countries at the UN condemned as illegal.
'We'll defeat everyone, we'll kill everyone, we'll rob everyone we need to. Everything will be as we like it,' he was shown saying in a video clip on that occasion.
Born in Soviet Ukraine, Tatarsky said after a Putin speech in December: 'We will conquer everyone, we'll kill everyone.
'We'll loot whoever we need to, and everything will be just as we like it.'
Earlier in October a video shows him declaring: 'What are Ukrainians?
'I suddenly understood it. 'A Ukrainian is a Russian who got mentally sick….
'A Ukrainian is a Russian spiritual transvestite who is trying to squeeze into another skin.
'I was always interested - when was this moment when they shifted from a healthy Russian person…into total schizophrenia?
'The future of Ukraine, those people who live there, is that they are Russian people and they will return to their normal state.
'When we win in Ukraine, the future of these people is that they are Russian people who recovered from their craziness, their spiritual transvestism, and returned to their normal state.'
The explosion took place at the Street Bar cafe in Russia's second largest city, killing Tatarsky and leaving more than a dozen injured. Pictured: Officials with the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry working the scene
Officials say the 'causes and circumstances of the incident are being established,' according to Russian Telegram messages reviewed by MailOnline. Investigators are pictured at the scene
Investigators from Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs, local police and paramedics are working the scene
Investigators and members of emergency services work at the site of an explosion in a cafe in Saint Petersburg
Russian investigators and police officers stand at the side of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg on Sunday.The restaurant is believed to have once belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private army that is fighting for Russia in Ukraine
In June when Russian troops were forced to leave Snake Island by Ukraine, he praised the 'heroic fight' of Putin's fighters.
Like other Putin war cheerleaders he had criticised the Russian army for failing to fight even more ruthlessly in Ukraine.
In December when Ukraine attacked an airbase in Ryazan with a drone, he said sarcastically: 'Who can say which academy teaches that airfields must be guarded during a war?
'Or is it a secret sacred knowledge that is transmitted only to the chosen few?'
Tatarsky's death followed the killing last August ofDarya Dugina, the daughter of prominent ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, in a car bomb attack near Moscow.
Russia's Federal Security Service accused Ukraine's secret services of carrying out that attack, which Putin called 'evil'.Ukraine denied involvement.
Dugin posted a picture of Dugina with Tatarsky and wrote: 'This is how the history of real Russian saints is created.
'Real. Not fictitious. Not sucked from the finger. Beating from the heart. If it is not holiness, then there is no holiness'.
Russia's war bloggers, an assortment of military correspondents and freelance commentators with army backgrounds, have enjoyed broad freedom from the Kremlin to publish hard-hitting views on the war, now in its 14th month.
Putin even made one of them a member of his human rights council last year.
They reacted with shock to the news of Tatarsky's death.
Pictured: Russian forces take security measures on Sunday night at the explosion site in which prominent Russian military correspondent Vladlen Tatarsky died in Saint Petersburg
Pictured:People lay flowers outside the cafe whereprominent Russian military correspondent Vladlen Tatarsky died on Sunday in a bombing
Pictured:Russian police investigators inspect a damaged cafe following an explosion in St Petersburg on Sunday
'He was in the hottest spots of the special military operation and he always came out alive. But the war found him in a Petersburg cafe,' said Semyon Pegov, who blogs under the name War Gonzo.
Alexander Khodakovsky, a leading pro-Moscow figure in eastern Ukraine, wrote: 'Max, if you were a nobody, you'd have died of 'vodka and headcolds'. But you were dangerous to them, you did your business like no one else could. We will pray for you, brother.'
Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov commented on the death of Tatarsky [Fomin], saying: 'Fomin is a former citizen of Ukraine, sentenced in 2011 to 12 years in prison for an armed robbery of a bank in the Donbas.
'He was released from the zone in 2014 by Russian troops, under the obligation to fight against Ukraine.
'Fomin did not sit long in the trenches and became a blogger and one of the symbols of the Russian occupation.
'Fomin was invited on December 22 to Putin's speech in the Kremlin among the representatives of the Russian elite.
'His liquidation is a serious blow to Russian propaganda.'
Investigators work at the site of an explosion in a cafe in Saint Petersburg
It is understood that the blast was 'caused by an improvised explosive device hidden inside a statue given to Tatarsky as a gift'
Investigators work at the site of an explosion in a cafe in Saint Petersburg on Sunday
TV presenter and media manager Tina Kandelaki demanded:'When will the country begin to respond? The terrorists [in Ukraine] have electricity, water, railways, restaurants, and the Internet all working.
'The leaders of the killers travel around the country with television cameras.'
If Tatarsky was deliberately targeted, it would be the second assassination on Russian soil of a high-profile figure associated with the war in Ukraine.
Various fires and explosions have occurred in Russia since the fighting in Ukraine began on February 24 2022, without any clear indication of a connection to the conflict.