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08/05/2023 | Russian pro-Kremlin influencer survives IED attack that killed fellow passenger

Joseph Fitsanakis

A UKRAINIAN PARAMILITARY GROUP has claimed to be behind a targeted attack against an influential figure in Russian literature and social media on Saturday, which killed his fellow passenger and prompted strong denouncements by the Kremlin.

 

The attack appeared to target Yevgeny Nikolayevich Prilepin, 47, known in Russia as Zakhar Prilepin. One of the best-known novelists in Russia, Prilepin spent much of his late teens and early twenties serving in the Russian National Guard. He saw action during two tours in Chechnya.

A HIGHLY INFLUENTIAL NATIONALIST AUTHOR

After decommissioning from the National Guard, Prilepin joined a host of ultra-nationalist Russian street gangs, including the National Bolshevik Party (currently banned), a group that aspired to bring together Russia’s far-left and far-right militants. At the same time, Prilepin began writing about his war experiences in novels that explored broader nationalist themes in Russian history. Today, Prilepin is highly influential in Russian social media circles, and many of his books have been turned into popular films.

Prilepin’s popularity soared after 2014, when he publicly endorsed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in Crimea. His decision to back the Russian president formed an informal link between supporters of the Russian president and members of banned nationalist groups like the National Bolshevik Party. In the ensuing years, Prilepin has chronicled his work as an armed volunteer with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. This resulted to the Ukrainian government including his name on a list of Russian citizens that it deemed as threats to national security.

THE BOMBING

The apparent attack on Prilepin took place on Saturday near the tiny settlement of Pionerskoye, in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region. Prilepin is believed to have family relatives in this rural part of the country, which is located over 250 miles east of Moscow. According to statements by Russian emergency services personnel, a radio-controlled improvised explosive device was detonated under Prilepin’s Audi Q7 passenger car, instantly killing his fellow passenger, who has not been named.

Initial reports said Prilepin had been “heavily injured” and that he had been transported by helicopter to a regional hospital for emergency care. Later in the day, however, statements from local officials claimed that the author was receiving medical care for minor injuries, including a concussion and bone fractures, which he was expected to recover from. It was also reported that Prilepin had been conscious from the time he was reached by emergency crews until he arrived at the hospital.

ATESH CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY

On Saturday evening, Russia’s Ministry of Interior announced that an individual suspected of involvement in the attack on Prilepin had been detained in the outskirts of a forest in the Nizhny Novgorod oblast. The government-controlled TASS news agency quoted unnamed “security sources” in claiming that the detained individual is “a native of Ukraine” with prior convictions for a series of violent robberies.

Meanwhile, the self-styled “resistance movement” known as ATESH said it was behind the attack on Prilepin. ATESH was founded in September 2022; it was one of several citizen militias that were established in direct response to the Russian military invasion in February of that year. The group, which takes its name from the Crimean Tatar term ateş (fire), claims to have members who are Ukrainians, Tatars and Russians. It has since claimed responsibility for several dozen attacks on Russian military targets in occupied Ukraine. The BBC said it contacted ATESH through the group’s channel on the Telegram social media platform, and that it was told Prilepin had been targeted because he is “one of the main ideologists of the Russian world” and was “directly responsible for the war”.

A PATTERN OF ATTACKS

The attack against Prilepin marks the third known such incident in Russia since August of last year, when a car bomb killed Daria Dugina, the daughter of nationalist ideologist and strategist Alexander Dugin, who is widely regarded as the chief theorist of the Kremlin’s expansionist policies. Last month, a powerful explosion in St. Petersburgh, caused by a bomb hidden inside a decorative figurine, killed Maxim Fomin, also known as Vladlen Tatarsky, one of the most prominent pro-Kremlin bloggers.

Russia accuses both Ukraine and the United States of being behind a campaign of assassinations targeting influential figures that back the Kremlin’s policies on Ukraine. However, both the Ukrainian and United States governments have vehemently denied having any role in planning these attacks, or having any foreknowledge of violent acts of against civilians on Russian soil.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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