Zakhar Prilepin, who was wounded in a car blast in Russia that killed his driver, is the third prominent prowar figure to be targeted by a bomb since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The 47-year-old novelist was hospitalised with wounds to both of his legs on Saturday, but was conscious and doing “alright”, the TASS state news agency reported, citing officials.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine and Western states backing it, particularly the United States, of the attack on the writer. A senior official in Kyiv, however, has accused Moscow of staging the incident.
Prilepin, the author of several novels inspired by his experiences of war and of living in Russia’s provinces, was once praised by literary critics in the West before he put his pen and his gun to the service of the Kremlin in Ukraine.
Born in 1975 in the Ryazan region, Prilepin was sent to fight in Russia’s wars against Chechen separatists in the 1990s.
After his return to civilian life, he recounted the horrors of the war in his debut novel “Pathologies”, which describes the actions of a special forces unit, including hard drinking and killings.
He went on to write five more novels and has also authored numerous poems, essays and articles. His works have been translated in Western Europe, and he is the recipient of various state awards.
As Prilepin tried to build a name for himself in the literary world in Europe in the 2000s, he became an opposition activist, criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin and campaigning for Russia’s poor against corrupt oligarchs.
Everything changed with Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Prilepin has since embraced Putin’s policies and went on to fight alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, revealing in 2017 that he had created his own battalion.
“I think a writer has a right to any position,” Prilepin said at a Moscow news conference following the revelation.
“He can stand with a flag saying peace to the world or he can take up arms.”
In a 2019 YouTube interview, he boasted that his unit had “killed people in big numbers”.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, Prilepin, who has approximately 300,000 subscribers each to his Telegram and YouTube channels, went on to become an ardent proponent of the military campaign.
“I have no guilt about what is happening. It has happened, now we have to see it through,” he said in November.
Prilepin has also been politically active as the cochair of the “A Just Russia — For Truth” party.
Last year, he took a prominent role in creating GRAD, a parliamentary group that seeks to identify cultural figures with “anti-Russian” views and persuade the state and businesses to stop funding them.
GRAD’s initials stand for “Group to investigate anti-Russian activity in the cultural sphere”. Grad is also the Russian word for “hail”, and the name of a missile system.
Prilepin has been sanctioned by Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the European Union over his support of the war in Ukraine.
The writer and politician has compared himself with two giants of Russian literature — Leo Tolstoy and Mikhail Lermontov — both of whom fought as soldiers before turning to writing.
According to Prilepin, Tolstoy and Lermontov would have joined the Russian army in Ukraine had they been alive today.
Interviewed by the AFP news agency in Paris in 2018, he said he was fighting out of “empathy” and did not hide his desire for Russia to take over more of Ukraine.
“Our aim is to conquer and control territory,” he said.
“Killing is not an aim of itself and we will be held accountable in hell.”