Zakhar Prilepin, who was wounded in a car bombing in Russia that killed his driver, is the third ex-war celebrity to be bombed since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
The 47-year-old novelist was hospitalized with injuries to both legs on Saturday, but was conscious and “everything is normal,” the TASS state news agency quoted official sources as saying.
The Russian foreign ministry accused Ukraine and Western countries that support it, especially the United States, of attacking the author. However, a senior official in Kiev accused Moscow of orchestrating the incident.
Prilepin, who wrote several novels inspired by his war experiences and life in Russia’s provinces, was praised by Western literary critics before he threw his pen and guns into the Kremlin in Ukraine.
Born in the Ryazan region in 1975, Prilepin was sent to Russia to fight against Chechen separatists in the 1990s.
After returning to civilian life, he recounted the horrors of war in his debut novel, “Sick,” describing Special Forces behavior, including drinking and killing.
He went on to write five more novels, as well as numerous poems, essays, and articles. His works have been translated in Western Europe and he has received various national awards.
As Prilepin was trying to make a name for himself in European literary circles in the 2000s, he became an opposition activist, criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin and campaigning for Russia’s poor against corrupt oligarchs.
That all changed with Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Prilepin has since embraced Putin’s policies and has continued to fight alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, revealing in 2017 that he had created his own battalion.
“I think writers have the right to any position,” Prilepin told a news conference in Moscow after the revelations.
“He can raise a flag and declare peace to the world, or he can take up arms.”
In a YouTube interview in 2019, he boasted that his troops “killed a lot.”
After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Prilepin’s Telegram and YouTube channels each had about 300,000 subscribers, and he continued to be an ardent supporter of military action.
“I don’t feel guilty about what’s happening. It’s happened and now we have to follow through,” he said in November.
Prilepin was also politically active as co-chairman of the party “Just Russia – For Truth”.
Last year, he was instrumental in creating GRAD, a parliamentary group aimed at identifying cultural figures with “anti-Russian” views and convincing the state and businesses to stop funding them.
The acronym GRAD stands for Group to Investigate Anti-Russian Activities in the Cultural Field. Grad also means “hail” in Russian and is the name of the missile system.
Prilepin has been sanctioned by Switzerland, Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the European Union for his support of the Ukraine war.
The writer and politician compares himself to two giants of Russian literature — Leo Tolstoy and Mikhail Lermontov — who both served as soldiers before turning to writing .
According to Prilepin, if Tolstoy and Lermontov were alive today, they would have joined the Russian army in Ukraine.
In an interview with AFP in Paris in 2018, he said he was fighting out of “empathy” and made no secret of his desire for Russia to take over more Ukrainian territory.
“Our goal is to conquer and control territory,” he said.
“Killing is not an end in itself, we will take responsibility in hell.”