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What we know about St. Petersburg bomb suspect Darya Trepova

Sergey Satanovskiy
April 6, 2023

Russia released a confession made by Trepova, who allegedly killed pro-Kremlin military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky with a bomb hidden in a figurine. Here's what we know so far

A young woman in a pullover sits on a bench in a courtroom in Moscow
Bombing suspect Darya Trepova in a courtroom in MoscowImage: Ilya Pitalev/SNA/IMAGO

Darya Trepova, who Russian authorities suspect of killing the military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky on April 2, lived and studied until recently in St. Petersburg. According to journalists, Russia's second city is where she attended art school and graduated from Lyceum Nr. 408. DW has established that a student named Darya Trepova received a diploma for her work on the subject of "criminal psychiatry" from that Lyceum in 2015. The focus of her research was on the forced admission of convicted criminals to a mental health institution.

After that, she studied medicine at St. Petersburg State University. On the university's website, information about Trepova passing a mandatory examination to practice medicine in December 2018 can still be found. On April 3, the university stated that Trepova is no longer a student there, having left the school on her own accord in 2019.

Indicted for an alleged terrorist attack

The 26-year-old was arrested in Moscow following a court order. She's accused of being responsible for a bomb attack in a St. Petersburg bar in which the Russian war propagandist Vladen Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was killed.

The court approved the request for an investigation behind closed doors, requiring Darya Trepova to remain in custody until June 2. But a few hours earlier, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation had already indicted Trepova. She's charged with carrying out a terrorist attack with the support of an organized group, in which one person was intentionally killed.

Beyond that, she's also accused of illegal possession of explosive devices. According to Russia's investigators, Trepova allegedly brought "a statuette loaded with explosives into a locale in the center of St. Petersburg under the orders of individuals operating from Ukrainian territory," and handing it to the now deceased Tartarsky. 

Explosion in the Street Food Bar

The first media reports about Darya Trepova's arrest appeared just a few hours after the explosion in the Street Food Bar in St. Petersburg. Tatarsky, a prominent supporter of the Kremlin who actively supports Russia's invasion of Ukraineon his Telegram channel, which has over 560,000 followers, was meeting his fans in the bar. Surveillance video shows a young woman, possibly Trepova, bringing a small statuette that resembled Tartarsky into the room.

Some individuals who were present at the meeting told the media that the event's organizers didn't allow the figurine to be brought into the space at first, due to concerns that it could have a bomb inside of it. But Tatarsky allegedly insisted that the statuette be brought to him. The explosion occurred soon afterward, killing the military blogger and injuring more than 30 people. 

According to her own statements during an interrogation, Trepova handed the statuette to Tatarsky herself. A source from the news agency Interfax contends that the figurine might have contained a remote controlled bomb with between 100 and 200 grams of TNT. The bomb was apparently detonated after Tartarsky was handed the statuette, after Trepova had quickly left the bar.

Investigators inspect the devastated interior of a cafe after a deadly explosion in St. Petersburg
A cafe in St. Petersburg after a deadly explosion earlier this monthImage: Investigative Committee of Russia/Handout via REUTERS

Arrested at an anti-war demonstration

Darya Trepova was a long-time employee at a vintage clothing store, but quit about a month ago. The online portal "MediaZona" reported that, according to Trepova's family, she then moved to Moscow.

Trepova is married to Dmitri Rylov, who currently lives in Georgia. On February 24, 2022, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, both Rylov and Trepova were arrested while taking part in an anti-war demonstration in St. Petersburg.

Rylov is a member of the Libertarian Party of Russia (LPR) led by Yaroslav Konvey. "LPR member Dmitri Rylov has been outside the country for a long time, and claims he had nothing to do with Darya [Trepova's] alleged actions, nor did he have any knowledge about them," said the party in a statement on Twitter.

A protester holds a sign at an anti-war demonstration in St. Petersburg
A protester holds a sign at an anti-war demonstration in St. Petersburg Image: ANTON VAGANOV/REUTERS

In a Telegram group called 'Mozhemobyasnit,' which translates to "we can explain that," Rylov maintained that his wife is being used as a pawn. "I think Darya is being used by people for their own purposes. I'm 100% certain that she didn't know what exactly she was bringing into that room." Rylov insisted that his wife is a "very friendly and reasonable person," who would never be capable of committing murder.

Who planned the attack?

Rylov went on to say that Trepova was arrested at his friend Dmitri Kasinzev's apartment. Rylov told Kasinzev to allow his wife to stay there, "while it was still wasn't clear what had happened." According to Rylov, Kasinev was arrested as well.

In her last Instagram post before her arrest, Trepova posted a picture of herself sitting at a café. Under the image, she wrote: "In this picture I look like I'm not working, but I actually am." Trepova's Instagram account has since been deleted.

Russia's anti-terrorism committee named Trepova  an "active supporter" of the Anti-Corruption Foundation of the jailed opposition figure Aleksei Navalny. On the organization's website, officials claim that the attack was carried out by Ukraine's intelligence services and planned by agents from Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation. However, the foundation's Director Ivan Zhdanov claims that Vladlen Tartarsky was assassinated by Russia's Federal Secret Service (FSB).

Flowers laid in memorial surround a picture of deceased military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in St. Petersburg
Flowers commemorate deceased military blogger Vladlen Tartarsky in St. PetersburgImage: Anton Vaganov/REUTERS

However, on April 4, Russia's National Republican Army (NRA) took responsibility for the explosion. The explanation of the St. Petersburg Column of the NRA was published on the Telegram canal 'Rospartizan.' The message was also spread by Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of Russian parliament's lower chamber who has lived in Ukraine for years.

"This action was carried out and planned by us autonomously. We have no connection to foreign structures, much less to secret services, nor do we receive any support from them," said the NRA. It's calling on Russian human rights activists to aid "Darya Trepova and other innocent people."

The National Republican Army was relatively unknown until August 21, 2022. That's when Ponomarev claimed that the NRA was responsible for the deadly car bomb attack on Darya Dugina, daughter of the right-wing ideologue Alexander Dugin. The group itself didn't take responsibility for the attack at the time.

This article was translated from German.