April 2, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 6:00 a.m. ET, April 3, 2023
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6:16 p.m. ET, April 2, 2023

We've wrapped up today's live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine. You can read more here, or scroll through the updates below.

5:02 p.m. ET, April 2, 2023

30 people injured in St. Petersburg blast, Russian news agency says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

The number of people wounded in Sunday's explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, has increased to 30.

"24 victims were taken to medical facilities in St. Petersburg from the scene. Six more victims sought medical help on their own some time after the incident," TASS reported, citing the press service of the Russian Ministry of Health.
4:51 p.m. ET, April 2, 2023

Little is known about the St. Petersburg blast, but Russian and Ukrainian officials quickly voiced suspicions

No official evidence has yet been presented about who carried out the deadly attack at a St. Petersburg cafe Sunday, but officials in both Russia and Ukraine have already suggested they know who was behind the attack.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said it was an example of growing threats against Russian journalists on the part of the Ukrainian government. She claimed Russians face "threats of reprisal from the Kyiv regime."

Zakharova decried Western countries and international organizations, who she said had not expressed "elementary human sympathy" since Tatarsky's death. And she said the blogger had provided invaluable information about what was happening in Ukraine, making him "dangerous" and "hated" in Kyiv.

(Zakharova's claims come days after American journalist Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia on espionage charges, which the US and his employer — the Wall Street Journal — have dismissed as false.)

A Ukrainian presidential official, meanwhile, suggested the killing was due to in-fighting in Russia.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky's office, wrote on Twitter: “Spiders are eating each other in a jar. Question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time.”

4:40 p.m. ET, April 2, 2023

Russian media: Witnesses at St. Petersburg event describe chaos following deadly explosion

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

Russian police officers are seen at the site of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg on April 2.
Russian police officers are seen at the site of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg on April 2. (AP)

Russian state media and independent outlets have described what they say are witness accounts from the explosion in St. Petersburg that killed prominent Russian military blogger Vladlen Tartarsky.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said a guest told the outlet a woman presented Tatarsky with a figurine before the blast

The witness is quoted stating: "This woman sat at our table. I saw her from the back as she was turned away. When she gifted him the figurine, she went to sit in a different place by the window and forgot her phone at our table.”

“The host at the stage took the figurine from the box and showcased it, Vladlen held it for a bit. They put it back and shortly after the explosion happened … I was running and my ears were blocked. There were many people with blood on them."

The independent Telegram channel Astra Press cited another witness describing the scene after the explosion.

“Everyone rushed to the exit when explosion happened. I myself saw the girl only until the moment of the explosion, when she gave a gift. She looked like an ordinary person," the witness told the channel, according to its post.

Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky speaks during a party at a cafe in St. Petersburg on April 2.
Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky speaks during a party at a cafe in St. Petersburg on April 2. (AP)

Another witness interviewed by the independent Telegram channel SOTA said that everyone had looked at the figurine and laughed.

“Some time passed and the explosion happened," they said, according to SOTA. "We (sat) in the further away part of the hall, we all ran."

"The woman sat by the window. Some people said that she left the building,” the witness added.

4:41 p.m. ET, April 2, 2023

The group that hosted blogger event in St. Petersburg says they are cooperating with authorities

From CNN's Katharina Krebs, Radina Gigova and Mariya Knight

The group that was hosting an event at a St. Petersburg cafe when a deadly explosion rocked the venue Sunday have said they will work with investigators trying to find the person or people responsible.

The organization, a pro-war Telegram society called the "Cyber Front Z" movement, also shared condolences in an online post after the blast. 

“Dear friends and colleagues. During our regular event in a cafe we rented, there was a terrorist attack. We took certain security measures, but, unfortunately, they were not enough. Our condolences to the families and friends of the victims," the group said Sunday.

"Separate condolences to everyone who knew the wonderful war correspondent and our good friend Vladlen Tatarsky. Now we are cooperating with law enforcement agencies and we hope that all those responsible will be punished," the post reads. 

"Unfortunately, we can't tell you more yet," it added.

4:52 p.m. ET, April 2, 2023

Explosive in St. Petersburg cafe may have been hidden in figurine presented to blogger, state media says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Katharina Krebs 

The explosive that detonated in a cafe in St. Petersburg, killing Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky on Sunday, may have been hidden in a figurine that was presented to the blogger, according to Russian state news media.

State media cited law enforcement agencies and eyewitness accounts, but Russian authorities have not yet commented on the reports and CNN is not able to independently verify the claim. 

Russian state news outlets are reporting, quoting law enforcement agencies, that a woman brought the explosive that caused the blast into the cafe. According to the reports, she had the figurine packed in a box when she entered.

Other independent media outlets are quoting similar eyewitness accounts.

Russian state news agency TASS said law enforcement described the explosive used in the attack as about the size of a bar of soap.

6:00 a.m. ET, April 3, 2023

Who was Vladlen Tatarsky, the Russian blogger killed in an explosion today?

From CNN's Radina Gigova, Mariya Knight, Tim Lister and Taras Zadorozhnyy

Vladlen Tatarsky is seen in this undated social media picture.
Vladlen Tatarsky is seen in this undated social media picture. (@Vladlentatarskybooks/Telegram/Reuters)

A well-known Russian military blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky, was killed in an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg on Sunday, authorities said.

There are several prominent bloggers like Tatarsky who cover Russia's war in Ukraine for followers on online platforms like Telegram. Some have amassed followings of hundreds of thousands of people.

While Tatarsky was ardently pro-war, he also issued criticism of setbacks in Moscow's campaign — a fairly rare phenomenon in the Russian public sphere.

Background and combat experience: Tatarsky's real name was Maxim Fomin.

In 2014, Tatarsky took part in fighting alongside Russian forces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, according to Russian state news agency Vesti, citing public sources, when Putin’s fighters first invaded the country.

Tatarsky created his Telegram channel in 2019, naming it in honor of the protagonist of Victor Pelevin’s novel “Generation ‘P,’” according to Vesti. He went on to write several books.

Tatarsky supported the war in Ukraine. He gained popularity online by providing analysis and commentary during Russia's invasion.

Rare criticism: Tatarsky had more than half a million followers on Telegram, and while he was aggressively pro-war, he was sometimes critical of Russian setbacks in Ukraine.

Public criticism of Moscow's war is uncommon in Russia.

In May last year, he told CNN that he was not criticizing the overall operation, rather “individual episodes,” and that he still believed Russia would achieve its goals in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, he called for broad change in response to the halting progress of Moscow's invasion.

“All the areas need to be improved,” he said. “Each war reveals some drawbacks, shortcomings, or false experiences, experiences that need to be adjusted to the modern realities. So absolutely all spheres need reform."

Tatarsky gained prominence after attending a Kremlin ceremony that marked the annexation of four Ukrainian regions (a move dismissed as illegal under international law by Ukraine and Western allies).

4:29 p.m. ET, April 2, 2023

Number of those wounded in St. Petersburg explosion rises to 25, city leader says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Radina Gigova in London

Investigators work at the site of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg on April 2.
Investigators work at the site of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg on April 2. (AP)

Local officials updated the number of those wounded by an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg on Sunday, saying 25 people were hurt and 24 of them have been hospitalized.

The city's governor, Alexander Beglov, shared the update in a Telegram post Sunday evening local time. 

"All emergency and special services of the city are currently activated in connection with what happened in a cafe on Vasilyevsky Island," Beglov said, referring to the island that makes up a significant portion of the city center. "We work in coordination with law enforcement agencies. They are trying to establish the circumstances of what happened."

The explosion killed Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, according to Russian state news agency TASS and local authorities.

One of the country's several prominent online commentators on the war in Ukraine, Tatarsky was at times critical of the Russian military's setbacks in Ukraine.

Of the 25 injured people in the explosion, six are in serious condition, the press service of the Russian Ministry of Health told reporters on Sunday, TASS reported. At least one teenager is among the wounded.

2:21 p.m. ET, April 2, 2023

Authorities are questioning people who were at cafe at time of St. Petersburg blast, state media reports

From CNN's Zahra Ullah, Radina Gigova and Mariya Knight

Everyone who was in the cafe at the time of the explosion that killed Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky is being questioned by authorities, according to state news agency TASS. 

Authorities are trying to establish who may have carried the explosive device into the St. Petersburg cafe before it detonated Sunday, the state news agency reported.

St. Petersburg police were notified about the explosion at the cafe at 6:13 pm local time (11:13 a.m. ET), according to TASS. Traffic in the area has since been blocked off. 

Russia's Investigative Committee for St. Petersburg has opened a criminal case, the committee said in a statement Sunday. 

"Today, an unknown explosive device exploded in a cafe in the center of St. Petersburg. According to preliminary data, as a result of this, a military blogger, known as Vladlen Tatarskiy, died, and 19 people were also injured of varying severity. Information on the number of victims is being specified," the statement said. 

Investigators and forensic specialists are working at the scene, according to the committee.

Russia's Interior Ministry also sent officials to the scene.