Russia blames Ukraine for car blast that wounded pro-Kremlin writer

·4-min read
Prilepin is known for novels drawing on his experiences of serving with Russian forces in Chechnya
Prilepin is known for novels drawing on his experiences of serving with Russian forces in Chechnya

Investigators said Ukraine was behind a car explosion on Saturday that killed one person and wounded pro-Kremlin writer Zakhar Prilepin, one of Russia's best-known novelists.

Investigators said they "are probing Alexander Permyakov's involvement in the assassination attempt on Zakhar Prilepin".

"During the interrogation (the suspect) testified that he acted on the instructions from the Ukrainian special services," said Russia's investigative committee, which looks into major crimes.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak reacted by likening Putin's regime to a god that "devours his enemies... and finally devours his own", which implied the blast was due to Russian infighting.

This is the latest in a series of apparent attacks and sabotage operations that Russia has blamed on Ukraine, ahead the popular May 9 celebrations of the Soviet victory over the Nazis.

No-one has claimed responsibility for most of the alleged attacks but the Kremlin has generally blamed Ukraine or the West, rarely providing evidence.

Saturday's blast took place at around 11:00 am (0800 GMT) in Nizhny Novgorod region, where nationalist writer Prilepin is from, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of Moscow.

The investigative committee published images of a partly destroyed, overturned car and said the writer had been taken to a medical facility.

- 'Terrorist cell' -

Prilepin is a vocal supporter of Moscow's offensive in Ukraine, where he fought alongside pro-Russian separatists in 2014.

Regional governor Gleb Nikitin said he visited Prilepin in hospital and "the operation was successful".

The governor sent his condolences to the relatives of Prilepin's assistant, who died in the blast.

Investigators said the suspect admitted to planting an explosive device on the road ahead of Prilepin's car and denotated it remotely.

He was detained on the edge of a forest, they said.

A video released by the interior ministry earlier showed the suspect in handcuffs, wearing a khaki cap and a black hoodie.

Shortly after the blast, and without providing evidence, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukraine and the West.

"Washington and NATO fed another international terrorist cell -- the Kyiv regime," Zakharova said on Telegram.

She said the blast was the "direct responsibility of the United States and Britain".

- Nationalist writer -

Russian state-run news agencies TASS and RIA Novosti quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying he was waiting for information from law enforcement services before commenting.

Prilepin is known for novels drawing on his experiences of serving with Russian forces in Chechnya and as a member of a banned radical nationalist group.

The shaven-headed writer has been a frequent visitor to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine since the start of the conflict in April 2014.

After the start of the full-scale offensive in 2022, he was in a group of pro-Kremlin figures that launched what they dubbed a fight against the "anti-state position" of Russia's cultural elite.

They demanded the resignation of some cultural figures over what they said were unpatriotic positions.

There were two previous killings of nationalists which Russia has blamed on Ukraine.

In April, a blast from a statuette rigged with explosives killed 40-year-old pro-Kremlin military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky.

The Kremlin said the attack had been orchestrated by Ukraine with the help of supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

But observers said the bombing attack could be used to justify a further crackdown on critics.

And last August Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent ultranationalist intellectual, was killed in a car bombing outside Moscow, which Russia blamed on Ukraine. Kyiv denied the charges.

- Increasing sabotage -

The blast that wounded Prilepin followsr a series of apparent attacks on Russian territory, sometimes far from the front.

Experts say they could be in preparation for a Ukrainian offensive.

In the most spectacular incidents, Russian authorities claim to have thwarted a drone attack on the Kremlin this week.

Russia claims the United States masterminded that alleged attack and that Ukraine carried it out with two drones, aiming to kill President Vladimir Putin. Both denied the charges.

On Thursday, a drone was shot down near an airbase in Sevastopol in the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.

The same day, Russia's southern regions of Krasnodar and Rostov, both near Ukraine, reported drone strikes that caused fires. On Friday, another fire broke out at the same Krasnodar oil refinery.

On Saturday, the Moscow-appointed governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said Russian forces had downed a Ukrainian missile over the peninsula, amid speculations of a counter-offensive.

On the Ukrainian side, six Ukrainian emergency workers were killed by Russian fire while demining in the southern region of Kherson on Saturday.