Record sentence for woman who killed pro-Russian blogger

The Bell

A Russian court found Darya Trepova, 26, guilty of terrorism over the murder of pro-Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky. He was killed in a bomb blast in a St. Petersburg cafe last April. Trepova was sentenced to an unprecedented 27 years in prison — the longest jail sentence for a woman since the fall of the Soviet Union. The court also found her guilty of trafficking explosives and forging documents, allowing them to reach the unprecedentedly long sentence. Trepova claimed that she was working on orders from an unknown handler in Ukraine and Russian journalist Roman Popkov, who is based outside of the country. The court dismissed this, despite de facto confessions from Popkov himself and the Investigative Committee previously naming him as the organizer of the attack.

  • Tatarsky was killed when Trepova handed him a small figurine stuffed with explosives while he was giving a talk at a St. Petersburg cafe. Trepova claimed that she knew nothing of any plan to murder Tatarsky and had no idea that the ornament had been rigged with a bomb. “If it were possible to fix this, I would simply throw the figurine into the Neva river and go about my business,” she said in her final statement to the court.
  • Trepova claimed she was acting on instructions from journalist Roman Popkov, who she got to know via Twitter. He later asked her to bring the figurine to the event with Tatarsky and told her it contained a GPS tracker, Trepova said. She said she believed she was helping Popkov's journalistic work, and that he wanted to keep his finger on the pulse of what was going on inside Russia’s influential pro-war community. 
  • In the 1990s, Popkov was a member of the neo-nazi Russian National Unity movement, then became an activist in the banned National Bolshevik Party. He also worked for independent Russian media, including MBKh, an outlet financed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In 2021 he left Russia and settled in Kyiv. He was later placed on Russia’s wanted list.
  • Last year Popkov claimed that he had never recruited Trepova or given her any orders. However, at the start of this year he reversed his story — following demands by Trepova's husband that he admit to recruiting her and offering to help her move to Kyiv. In an emotional statement, Popkov wrotethat everything Trepova had said was true. Addressing the media, he said that the public would “learn the truth about resistance operations when the time was right.” On the day of the verdict, Popkov promised that “he would fight” for Trepova’s freedom.

Why the world should care:

In modern Russia, no woman has ever been handed a longer sentence than Trepova’s 27 years. Her punishment is more severe than a number of high profile serial murder cases, such as the Amazon gang who killed more than 20 people in the south of Russia (sentenced to 24-25 years), and a woman in the Urals who murdered 17 pensioners (20 years). In Trepova's case, the court did not bother to concern itself with whether she had any intention of killing Tatarsky, but tried her on terrorism charges with aggravating circumstances in order to justify the unprecedentedly long prison spell.


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