The World Today for April 10, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

The Cheerleaders

RUSSIA

Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, 40, had been a cheerleader for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. As Reuters reported, he could be scathing of what he saw as Russia’s incompetent military establishment. But he called for Russia to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy soon after the liberation of the Ukrainian city of Kherson from its Russian occupiers.

“We’ll defeat everyone, we’ll kill everyone, we’ll loot whoever we need to, and everything will be just as we like it,” Tatarsky said last year after Putin announced that Russia had “annexed” four Ukrainian regions, the Guardian noted.

Just days ago, as he spoke in a St. Petersburg café before a group known as “Cyber Z Front,” the “Z” as a reference to what has become a Russian symbol for the war, a bomb exploded, killing Tatarsky and wounding 30 others. Local media said the explosion occurred soon after a woman named Nastya gave Tatarsky a bust that she claimed to have made of him.

Russian police quickly arrested 26-year-old Daria Trepova, alleging that she had handed Tatarsky the booby-trapped bust, CNN wrote. Trepova’s husband insisted she was innocent. She had been arrested before, however, for participating in demonstrations against the so-called special military operation, Putin’s euphemism for the war in Ukraine. Such expressions of political opinion are prohibited in Russia.

Meanwhile, Russian officials blamed Ukraine, the Guardian wrote.

Russian comedians, including one who fled to Berlin in order to avoid the wrath of Russia’s authorities, as Radio Free Europe explained, made jokes about the supposedly warmongering blogger’s demise. The response was harsh to say the least. “Humor off of human tragedy is a crime. People want cheap fame from blood. Society must respond. It is in our power to make them understand that we do not need blasphemous humor,” wrote Russian legislator Yana Lantratova on Telegram, according to the Daily Beast.

As the BBC noted, bloggers with “extreme anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western views” have been extremely popular in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine. Some have more than a million followers on social media platforms like Telegram. They spread conspiracy theories of Ukrainian Satanism and other wild accusations.

In the meantime, a Russian group that aims to undermine Putin’s regime, the National Republican Army, claimed responsibility for the bombing and murder, Newsweek wrote.

Repression has reached “unprecedented levels” in Russia, argued Foreign Policy magazine. Putin has killed (or nearly killed), imprisoned, or sidelined his political rivals, like opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Foreign organizations have been barred from the country. Bloggers like Tatarsky represented the kind of authentic Russian media that Putin wants to shore up his regime.

But in Putin’s Russia these days, even the acceptable bloggers encounter violence.

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