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Russian Court Jails Woman Over Blast That Killed Influential Military Blogger

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A Russian court on Thursday sentenced a woman to 27 years in prison for delivering a bomb that killed an influential military blogger in a St. Petersburg cafe last year, a lengthy sentence that underscored the Kremlin’s efforts to deter violent opposition to its war in Ukraine.

The activist, Daria Trepova, 26, was convicted on charges of terrorism, illegal possession of explosives and document forgery.

She handed a statuette that contained a bomb to the blogger, Maksim Fomin, who was known more popularly as Vladlen Tatarsky, as he gave a public talk in a cafe in April. Mr. Tatarsky was killed and others were injured when the bomb exploded.

The prosecution had argued that Ms. Trepova knew about the explosive device in the statuette, which was in the blogger’s likeness.

While Ms. Trepova admitted bringing the statuette to the cafe, she told the court in St. Petersburg that she was just the messenger, according to Mediazona, a Russian news outlet. It reported that Ms. Trepova said she had been sent the statuette by a man from Ukraine who led her to believe it contained a listening and a tracking device.

“It is especially painful to me that a terrorist act was committed with my hands,” Ms. Trepova said in a statement to the court, according to Mediazona, and asked for victims’ forgiveness.

A native of eastern Ukraine, Mr. Tatarsky was a leading member of a vocal and hawkish group of pro-invasion ultranationalist bloggers. While he had often criticized the way Russia’s military was prosecuting the war, he had not directly challenged the top brass or President Vladimir V. Putin.

A sentence in another high-profile case involving a popular nationalist blogger was also handed down on Thursday.

The Moscow City Court found Igor Girkin, 53 and also known as Strelkov, guilty of inciting extremism on the internet, according to a statement published by the court’s news service. He was sentenced to four years in a penal colony.

Mr. Girkin had emerged as a leading nationalist critic of the Russian Army’s leadership and Moscow’s management of the war. He used his blog to argue for a more heavy-handed approach to the war as well as for a purge of those who opposed the invasion.

Amid Russian setbacks on the battlefield, Mr. Girkin’s criticisms grew sharper. He ridiculed Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu as a “plywood marshal” and launched personal attacks against Mr. Putin, whom he referred to as a “nothingness, who managed to ‘throw dust in the eyes’ of a large portion of the population.”

Days after posting those attacks in July, Mr. Girkin’s home was searched and he was detained.

His case has been viewed as a barometer of the Kremlin’s willingness to tolerate criticism of the war from the nationalist end of Russia’s political spectrum. That tolerance diminished after the brief mutiny in June by the Wagner private military group underscored the potential danger posed by nationalists, even if they are a minority.

Dozens of people came to the court building in Moscow on Thursday to express their support for Mr. Girkin, according to photographs posted on social media. At least three were detained by police officers, according to Mediazona.

A Russian Army veteran and former intelligence officer, Mr. Girkin helped Russia illegally annex Crimea in 2014 and then led pro-Russian separatist militias in eastern Ukraine. With his ruthless discipline, he earned a reputation as a decisive commander.

In May 2014, he was appointed defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist entity that claimed the territory of the Donetsk region of Ukraine. He was dismissed a few months later after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.

In November 2022, a court in the Netherlands convicted Mr. Girkin and two others of murder for their roles in the downing of the plane; Mr. Girkin has denied responsibility.

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