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Khalturin became involved in revolutionary politics, joining The People's Will. In 1880 he got a job as a carpenter at the Winter Palace allowing him to sleep on the premises; this allowed him to bring in packets of dynamite each day, concealing it in his room, within his bedding.
Under the orders of the Narodnaya Volya, Khalturin constructed a mine on February 17, 1880 in the basement of the building under the dining-room. The mine was set to go off at the time which Narodnaya Volya had calculated the Tsar to be having dinner. Unfortunately for the assassins, Alexander II's guest Prince Alexander of Battenberg arrived late, delaying dinner so the dining-room was empty. The Tsar was thus able to escape assassination unharmed though 11 Imperial Guards were killed and 45 more people were badly wounded by the explosion.
After the failed assassination, Khalturin escaped to Moscow and then to Odessa. On March 18, 1882, he participated in the assassination of a police general named Strelnikov who was sent to Odessa in order to eradicate the revolutionary movement. Khalturin's accomplice Zhelvakov shot Strelnikov in the head, killing him instantly. Khalturin, disguised as a cabman, was supposed to help Zhelvakov flee, but both were overpowered by the crowd and arrested. Both men gave the police fake names. Under an order by Alexander III, they were swiftly court-martialled and hanged. Khalturin was executed without being known to be the bomber of the Winter Palace.