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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Russia claims Ukraine killed daughter of prominent war supporter

In this handout photo taken from video released by the Investigative Committee of Russia on Sunday, investigators work on the site of the explosion of a car driven by Daria Dugina outside Moscow.

By Anton Troianovski

Russian authorities on Monday blamed Ukraine for organizing the killing of Daria Dugina, the ultranationalist daughter of a prominent Russian supporter of the invasion, a claim that raised fears of a further escalation in the six-month war.

Ukraine has denied having anything to do with the car bombing Saturday that killed Dugina, 29, on a highway in an affluent district outside of Moscow.

Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, issued a statement Monday saying the attack “was prepared and committed by the Ukrainian intelligence agencies.” The agency’s claims could not be independently verified.

Some Russian media reports had said Dugina’s father, Alexander Dugin, an ultranationalist writer who helped build the ideological foundation for President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, was the likely target of the blast.

But the FSB’s statement described Dugina — herself a hawkish commentator who had earned a following with frequent appearances on state media — as the intended target.

Soon after the FSB’s announcement, the Kremlin published a letter of sympathy from Putin to Dugina’s parents, the Russian leader’s first statement about the attack. “A vile, cruel crime ended the life of Daria Dugina — a bright, talented person with a real Russian heart,” Putin wrote, making no mention of the perpetrators or of Ukraine. “She proved in her actions what it means to be a patriot of Russia.”

In its statement, the FSB alleged that a Ukrainian woman had been contracted to carry out the bombing, saying that she had entered Russia on July 23 and rented an apartment in the Moscow building where Dugina lived “in order to organize the murder of Dugina and obtain information about her lifestyle.” The woman was at the same nationalist festival attended by Dugina and her father Saturday before the bombing, the agency said.

Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted that the FSB statement was “propaganda” from a “fictional world.”

The FSB also alleged that the perpetrator of the bombing had left Russia for Estonia, later releasing video footage of what it said showed her in a gray Mini Cooper crossing the border. The Estonian Foreign Ministry said it had no immediate comment. But the FSB’s claim was likely to further inflame tensions with the Baltic nation, which has been among Europe’s leading critics of the Kremlin.

A senior Russian lawmaker, Vladimir Dzhabarov, said Monday that if Estonia did not hand over the woman there would be “every reason for the Russian Federation to take tough actions against the Estonian state.”

The car bombing came on the heels of a spate of Ukrainian attacks deep behind the front line in Crimea, and the FSB’s accusations heightened the clamor among the war’s most ardent cheerleaders to escalate the fighting and punish President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.

“The Zelenskyy regime must be destroyed,” Sergei Mironov, a hawkish leader in the Russian parliament, said in a state television interview. “What the Ukrainian intelligence agencies are doing today on the orders of Zelenskyy is terrorism in its truest form.”

But the FSB statement may be unlikely to convince critics of Putin that Ukraine was indeed behind the crime. Coming just over 36 hours after the blast, the agency’s declaration that it had “solved” the crime represented an extraordinarily rapid investigation compared to other high-profile assassinations — like those of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in 2015 or of independent journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, cases that remain unsolved.

And the agency has been accused of staging attacks for political ends. Two decades ago, the FSB was accused of involvement in bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow that killed more than 300 people and touched off Russia’s invasion of the republic of Chechnya. Those accusations were never confirmed. At the time, residents in Ryazan, 115 miles from Moscow, said they had found intelligence agents planting explosives underneath an apartment building, prompting the FSB to apologize and assert that the material in question was sugar sacks and that the incident was a security exercise.

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