Vladimir Putin personally ordered the killing of a pro-war blogger over the weekend after describing him as an “out of control moron military officer”, a source claiming to have insider Kremlin information has reported. Telegram channel General SVR reported on Tuesday that Putin had enlisted the help of the Russian security service (FSB) to carry out the attack on Sunday, which killed 40-year-old military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, 40, and severely wounded eight others. A 26-year-old anti-war protester, Daria Trepova, has been arrested on terrorism charges for the incident but General SVR claimed that the attack was “agreed with the President”.
Tatarksy, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, was a renowned military blogger in Russia with ties to the Wagner Group. Former senior military intelligence officer Philip Ingram told Sky News that he was seen as “a part of the Prigozhin’s inner team”, who is the chief of the mercenary outfit, and was more supportive of the private military group than Putin’s operation.
And while he was a supporter of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, he, like many other “milbloggers”, had been publicly critical of the Kremlin war generals, including the chief of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine, Valery Gerasimov, the former chief, Sergei Surovikin, and the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.
This did not translate to direct criticism of Vladimir Putin, with most milbloggers maintaining that the to remove the autocrat would be catastrophic for Russia, but Tatarsky had contributed to a mass dissent campaign against some of Putin’s most authoritative officials.
His affiliation to the Wagner Group, which has been using its advancements on Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, to publicly undermine the Russian war generals efforts elsewhere, was further evidence of a commentator whose support for the “special military operation” was complicated by caveats.
Putin is believed to have put up with the dissent among the milbloggers, including Tatarsky, as well as the Wagner Group, because it did not threaten his own authority, but the General SVR report suggests that his willingness to turn a blind eye to these remarks has come to an end.
The Telegram channel, allegedly fed by a Kremlin insider, said that Putin had labelled the killing of Tatarsky, in a St Petersburg building owned by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, as “brilliant”.
“The development of the special operation and the choice of the victim were agreed with the president,” General SVR said.
“Putin congratulated the leadership of the FSB and recommended it to continue in the same spirit.”
The comments could not be independently verified but other military analysts have suggested the attack could have been an inside job, while many have questioned the legitimacy of the arrest of 26-year-old Daria Trepova for her involvement.
Danilo delle Fave, military and intelligence analyst for ITSS Verona, also told The Sun Online the attack could have been carried out by the FSB.
“The conquest of Bakhmut has become a matter of prestige for Wagner – if they manage to conquer the city they will put in shame the Russian army,” he said.
“Since Fomin was close to Wagner, and the event was staged in a Prigozhin-owned building, it could be a message the FSB and the military have sent to Wagner.
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“The bomb attack could be the result of the infighting between the Russian establishment and the hardliners that wanted to exploit the war to achieve more power inside the Russian institutions.”
He also said that the assassination could have been a false flag attack intended to increase support for the “special military operation”.
“The current mobilisation effort is sluggish, and an attack in the heart of the Russian Federation could be used to influence people to join the army,” he said. “We should expect an increase in these kinds of events as the Russians are unable to achieve their objectives in Ukraine.”
In February, the Institute for the Study of War also warned that Russia could increase false flag operations, carrying out attacks while alleging Ukraine or its affiliates were the actual perpetrators.
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