April 2, 2023
Sophia Ritscher, Gabriel Helupka, Jennifer Radlinsky, Kahlil Alavi EUCOM Team
Salomon Montaguth, Álvaro Picón, Editors; Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor
St Petersburg, Russia
Event: On April 2, an explosion at the Street Food Bar No 1 cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, killed prominent Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, formally known as Maxim Fomin, and injured at least 25 other people. Multiple state-owned Russian media outlets, quoting the Russian Interior Ministry, stated a bomb hidden in a statue given to Tatarsky caused the explosion. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) accused Ukraine’s secret services of carrying out the attack, which Ukraine denied. Tatarsky was a vocal supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, frequently blogging from the frontlines, calling for eliminating the Ukrainian State, and denouncing Russian activists opposing the war. Tatarsky reportedly criticized the Russian army for its lack of coordination, leadership, and advanced weaponry, calling Russia’s plan for the war “idiotic” and “based on disinformation.” Tatarsky argued the army was deeply flawed and called for changes to the system.
Significance: Russia will almost certainly use the deaths of Russian civilians for pro-war propaganda after leveling an accusation against Ukraine for conducting an attack on its soil. They will likely use the bombing to escalate the war in Ukraine, likely using it to justify further attacks by conducting missile strikes on civilian infrastructure targets as retaliation. Pro-war bloggers will very likely exploit the bombing to strengthen Russia’s narrative of an aggressive Ukraine, likely using it to reach a wider audience and amplify their calls for increased attacks on Ukraine. They will likely connect the bombing to similar recent killings of pro-war journalists, likely accusing Ukraine of coordinating attacks to eliminate prominent war supporters. Russia will very likely attempt to expose domestic sympathizers by deceiving them into publicly displaying anti-war narratives and framing them as instigators complicit with a pro-Ukrainian agenda. This will very likely result in journalists sympathetic to Ukraine facing an increased risk of arbitrary detention or blame for involvement in attacks against prominent pro-war figures. Sympathetic journalists in Russia will very likely be at higher risk of attack, likely making them vulnerable targets.
The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that journalists operating in Russia be on high alert and increase situational awareness in public areas. We also recommend maintaining discretion when discussing controversial views in a public setting. Journalists should pre-plan any public trip and consider the security measures in place for the venue. Foreign publications should consider pulling their remaining journalists out of the country.
CTG recommends that public critics of the Russian military monitor pro-war blogs and state-owned media to assess the threat against them. It is also recommended that critics stay vigilant for acts of retaliation by pro-Russian actors seeking revenge for the cafe attack. If critics encounter a potential threat or suspicious activity, we recommend leaving the area.
CTG recommends that if journalists were to stay in Russia, media companies ensure their continued personal safety amid the unpredictable environment. We recommend sharing best safety practices, travel advisories, and advice on avoiding drawing suspicion of pro-war advocates and media personalities.
CTG recommends security professionals perform a public threat assessment to reveal potential emerging patterns between recent killings of pro-war advocates and media personalities within Russia. This assessment should analyze possible links between the targets, their work, and the likelihood of the same perpetrator being responsible.
If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-2848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
 Bomb kills Russian war blogger in St Petersburg cafe, Reuters, April 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russian-military-blogger-killed-explosion-st-petersburg-agencies-2023-04-02/
 Influential Russian Military Blogger Is Killed in St. Petersburg Explosion, The New York Times, April 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/02/world/europe/russian-military-blogger-explosion.html