Dugina attack: is Russia's version plausible?

Just two days after right-wing nationalist activist Darya Dugina was killed by a car bomb near Moscow, the Russian Federal Security Service FSB has presented a suspect. They say the attack on the daughter of ideologue Aleksandr Dugin on August 20 was carried out by Natalia V., a Ukrainian who fled to Estonia right after the blast. Europe's press is sceptical.

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Fokus (UA) /

The trail leads to Russia

There are many indications that Russian intelligence services were behind the blast, blogger Alexander Kovalenko writes in Focus:

“I found the version about a 'Ukrainian trail' in Dugina's murder ridiculous from the start. Firstly because it is known that the car in which she was blown up was in a parking lot guarded by the Federal Protective Service [responsible among other things for the president's safety]. Secondly, the Land Cruiser in which Dugina was travelling exploded a hundred metres from the gate of a major FSB facility, the Golitsyn Border Institute. ... This would mean that the Ukrainian services took a huge risk, in effect embarking on an impossible mission.”

Novaya Gazeta Europe (RU) /

Pretext, fake terrorism or trickery

Novaya Gazeta Europa sees three possible motives behind the attack:

“The first: Dugina's murder is a 'Kirov murder' [which was the prelude to mass repression from 1936 onwards under Stalin] - a pretext to obliterate Ukraine and unleash massive terror against the opposition. ... The second: fake terrorists are being used to neutralise the ultra-imperial party to which Dugin belongs and which calls on Putin to step up the total war and terror. The third: this is a cat-and-mouse game on the part of the intelligence services that takes their favourite pastime, trickery, to bloody extremes. The three variants are not mutually exclusive, but with variants two and three the likelihood of massive terror in response to the murder decreases drastically.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The perfect explanation

The Russians could hardly have come up with a better 'solution' to the Dugina murder, and in record time, notes Corriere della Sera:

“The act of accusing the Ukrainian Natalya V. is the perfect composition. It combines the enemy of the moment, a potential cover-up by external forces with the escape of the 'guilty' party to Estonia, the Ukrainian secret service, and the excuse for a reaction. ... The fact that the woman is now beyond the borders makes a trial unnecessary. Not that that would be a problem, but in this way the prosecution can used as leverage against Estonia. All this to overcome in one swoop the embarrassment of a hard blow to its security.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta (RU) /

Unbiased investigation needed

The quickly presented version serves to obscure genuine investigations, Nezavisimaya Gazeta fears:

“Investigations should not have any predetermined points of orientation. They must be well-conducted and unbiased, and their conclusions must be convincing. ... But if the investigators have immediately found a working hypothesis and motive, it's hard to understand why the victim was not warned and protected in advance, and why they didn't anticipate the perpetrators' moves. The Ukrainian trail doesn't absolve anyone of responsibility. And nor does it reassure citizens who see that despite stringent measures their safety is not guaranteed.”

Wprost (PL) /

A handy excuse

The timing of the attack is suspiciously propitious for the Russian government, Wprost commens:

“As expected, the Kremlin has blamed the Ukrainian secret services for the murder of Darya Dugina. Another version circulating in Russia is that it was carried out by an underground group fighting against the government. Both versions give the regime a free hand to openly hunt down internal enemies who disrupt Russia's unity. This is crucial at a time when Russian holidaymakers in Crimea are fleeing in panic from the Ukrainian bombardment of Russian Federation military bases, bringing home bad news that is not shown on television under the regime.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Harking back to the 90s

The war has reached the Russian capital, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“The fact that an era could now dawn again when attacks become a means of violence in Russia's major cities, similar to the grim series in the 1990s during the Chechen wars, is likely to be a dreaded scenario in Moscow. Missiles fired at the border region around Belgorod, burning depots in tourist hotspot Crimea, a car bomb that blows up war supporter Darya Dugina - all this could serve to shock Russian society and make it realise that the war is drawing closer and becoming dangerous for them, too. In turn, the Russian leadership will now make even stronger efforts to rally the population behind it.”

Mediafax (RO) /

Bombers with a long tradition

Commenting in Mediafax, historian Marius Oprea also feels reminded of the actions of Russian underground groups in the 1990s:

“At least in the times of Yeltsin, such 'booby traps' were a way of settling scores between oligarchs, politicians and organised crime. ... These real paramilitary troops answering to organised crime, in turn, were made up of veterans who had either been in the Afghan conflict of yore or in the more recent Chechen wars. For them, planting a bomb in a car parked in a parking lot is child's play. ... Regardless of who committed this crime, it's clear for me that they must belong to this world.”

Polityka (PL) /

Not a random victim

Polityka sheds light on Darya Dugina's background:

“It is highly likely that Dugin was supposed to be killed in the attack too. ... Darya Platonova Dugina, however, was not a random victim. ... Since her early youth she had been active in organisations led by her father. ... Over time, she began writing for Katehon, the think tank he founded, and its website Geopolitika.ru, and she was also a correspondent and regular commentator for Tsargrad TV, of which Dugin is the director. More recently, she took a selfie in the ruins of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. ... On the evening she was killed, she was on her way back from attending a far-right rally near Moscow with her father.”

Fokus (UA) /

A Russian secret service operation

Darya Dugina was a rather unimportant exponent of Russian propaganda, writes journalist Sergey Vysotsky in Focus.ua:

“During wartime, priority targets are those whose elimination stands to weaken the enemy. These include high-ranking GRU and FSB [military intelligence and security] officers responsible for the 'special operation', heads of arms industry companies, scientists implementing defence programmes, businessmen and other intelligence officers. ... I suspect that the attack on a car near Moscow is an action by Russian intelligence services aimed at mobilising their own population and discrediting Ukraine in the eyes of its Western partners.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Prelude to a new phase of the war

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also believes it's not out of the question that Russian forces were behind the attack:

“The violence of the Russian elite has always also been directed inwards. In view of the twisted theories of the Russian propaganda machine, which blames every attack against opponents of the Kremlin on Russia's enemies seeking to discredit the Kremlin, it is quite conceivable that the attack could be the prelude to a new phase of the war against Ukraine. Leading Russian propagandists are already calling for an attack on 'decision-making centres' in response.”

Leonid Volkov (RU) /

Putin's entourage no longer safe

Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny's comrades-in-arms, says the attack is writing on the wall for those close to Putin:

“The night-time explosion has frightened many genuine ideologues of war and fascism à la Putin. Although they're much harder to get at than Dugin, who spends his time trundling through local folk festivals without a bodyguard, they're now starting to feel the heat. ... The blast took place in the Odintsovo district near Moscow, right at the epicentre of Putinism - and even there, Ukrainian or Nato saboteurs are apparently operating with remotely detonated bombs? Hmm... Recognising this as an act of terrorism is a serious problem for the FSB, which is already powerless against the epidemic of careless smoking in Crimea.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Sleeping monsters could awaken

No matter who committed it, the attack will escalate the war in Ukraine, comments writer Vasile Ernu in Libertatea:

“An act of terrorism is a desperate and radical way of doing politics using different means: violence. I fear this act will accelerate the war, but not in a good direction because it could awaken the sleeping monsters under the Kremlin in Moscow, but also in Kyiv, Washington, London, Berlin and who knows where else. History shows that personal, individualised terror always leads to mass terror - in and from all sides. ... And we also know that every act of terror is a step towards the abyss of civil war.”