Roman Popkov dabbled in Russia’s far-left and far-right political scenes before devoting himself to the armed overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the name of democracy. In 2011, he moved to Kyiv after getting imprisoned in Russia for taking part in anti-Putin protests. His greatest success may have come last month, on April 2, when a noted Russian propagandist, Vladlen Tatarsky, was killed in a St. Petersburg cafe. Popkov is rumored to have recruited the assassin on behalf of Ukraine’s intelligence service and to have helped plan the killing.
In a lengthy chat with Foreign Policy via encrypted messaging, Popkov remembered Darya Trepova, the alleged recruit, as one of the “best people” he had ever known and described her as a “hero” for opposing Russia’s Ukraine invasion. He neither confirmed nor denied that he had personally played a role in the attack but admitted that the rebel network he works for, Rospartizan, was involved in the “liquidation of Putin’s propagandist and war criminal Vladlen Tatarsky.” He added that other Russian partisan groups collaborated as well. National Republican Army (NRA), another partisan group represented by former Duma deputy, Ilya Ponomarev, has also claimed to have carried out the attack.