This weekend saw another attempted assassination of a prominent supporter of Russia’s war. Writer and politician Zakhar Prilepin survived a car bomb but was seriously injured. His driver was killed at the scene. This is the third assassination attempt in the past nine months. Earlier, the daughter of pro-Kremlin philosopher Alexander Dugin and self-styled war correspondent Vladlen Tatarsky were killed in separate attacks.
- Prilepin’s car was blown up Saturday. Anti-tank mines were placed under the car and detonated remotely. The suspect behind the attack is Alexander Permyakov, 29, from Ukraine’s Donetsk Region. During police interrogation, he said that he was recruited by Ukrainian security services in 2018. The Russian authorities described the explosion as a terrorist attack. The Atesh movement, created by Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Prilepin’s driver was Alexander Shubin, 27, who previously fought with separatists in the Donbas. Belarusian media reports that he was also among the Wagner Group soldiers detained in that county in 2020. At that time, security officers in Belarus thwarted a Ukrainian plan to arrest several dozen Wagner mercenaries by luring them onto a flight to Istanbul that would then land in Ukraine. Belarus promptly released the Wagner troops, who returned to Russia.
- Zakhar Prilepin is probably a more renowned and influential figure than Dugina or Tatarsky. He began his career as a cop and in the late 1990s he fought in Chechnya. Later, he turned to journalism in Nizhny Novgorod and took an interest in writing. By the summer of 2011, he had published nine novels. That year, he won the prestigious National Best Writing award and was chosen as writer of the year by GQ magazine. At the time, Newsweek described him as “Russia’s best young novelist.”
- After the war broke out in Ukraine in 2014, Prilepin initially went there as a journalist, then as a volunteer soldier. Later he commanded a separatist combat unit. Investigators from Bellingcat wrote that his role was more symbolic rather than that of a genuine commander, although he sometimes fought on the front lines. “Whatever they say, I ran a combat unit that killed large numbers of people,” Prilepin has said.
- In 2018, Prilepin left his battalion and went into politics. First, he joined Putin’s “All-Russian People’s Front,” then founded his own “For Truth” organization. Later, he created a political party under the same name and became its chairman. In 2021 “For Truth” merged with two other parties and won seats in the State Duma. Prilepin could have served as a deputy but declined the opportunity.
- After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Prilepin became one of its most vocal supporters. In early 2023 he was due to go to the front as a volunteer — but nothing is known about his actual involvement in the war.
Why the world should care
No one can say for certain whether the attack on Prilepin will be the last attempt on the life of a prominent supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine. This is already the second assassination attempt this year. What is clear is that pro-Ukrainian forces (possibly even Ukraine's security services) have the resources and capabilities to organize attacks deep inside Russia.