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Who Would Want to Kill Daria Dugina?

Expert: “Russia’s security services claim that Ukraine is behind the assassination. But that makes absolutely no sense.”

Putin

The sensational news from Russia is the assassination on Aug. 20 of Daria Dugina, the 29-year-old daughter of Russia’s imperialist, fascist philosopher, Aleksandr Dugin. Though a rabid Russian nationalist and a proponent of Ukraine’s destruction, Dugina was a TV personality of no great importance on the Russian political scene. Unsurprisingly, her killing has spawned a variety of theories.

Russia’s security services claim that Ukraine is behind the assassination. But that makes absolutely no sense. For one thing, Ukrainian special forces lack the capacity to pull off a complex assassination in Moscow. More important, there is no reason whatsoever for a Ukrainian-inspired assassination. Dugina means nothing to Kyiv. Her father, though Ukraine’s ideological enemy and the spiritual godfather of Vladimir Putin, means little more. Were the Ukrainians to organize a political assassination, they would aim for a top-ranking general or political figure, not the Dugins. They would also concentrate their efforts on potential targets in occupied Ukrainian territories: That would make strategic sense and promote the liberation of these regions. Killing Dugina serves no purpose and would be completely irrational.

An Opposition “Army”

So, who might have pulled off the killing?

Ilya Ponomaryov, a former Russian parliamentarian turned dissident, says it was the work of the National Republican Army, a group supposedly opposed to President Putin. The Army has produced a manifesto in which it declares, “We, Russian activists, military and politicians, now partisans and fighters of the National Republican Army, outlaw the warmongers, robbers and oppressors of the peoples of Russia! We declare President Putin a usurper of power and a war criminal who amended the Constitution, unleashed a fratricidal war between the Slavic peoples, and sent Russian soldiers to certain and senseless death … Putin will be brought down and destroyed by us!”

Those are heady words, but are they, and the Army, for real? On one hand, the fact that Ponomaryov, who is no lightweight, is affiliated with this group argues for its authenticity. The existence of such a group would also help explain the many mysterious fires that have plagued Moscow and distant areas of Russia since the war began. Finally, there is every reason to believe that anti-Putin sentiment has reached a boiling point among certain sectors of the Russian population.

The Work of Russian Security Services

That said, it would make perfect sense to learn that the Russian security service, the FSB, created such a group and used it to carry out the assassination. The FSB’s Soviet predecessors, the NKVD and KGB, created many such entities to combat Russian, Ukrainian, and other non-Russian émigré groupings, armed resistance movements, and dissidents. In this case, killing a visible but not terribly important target such as Dugina could easily serve as a pretext for launching a domestic terror campaign, or a major missile assault on Ukraine. 

In sum, the assassination fits perfectly in the FSB’s playbook, and it would serve Putin’s purposes nicely. He could now declare that “terrorist” Ukraine and/or his domestic “terrorist” opposition must be wholly destroyed. This would match how Joseph Stalin exploited the assassination in 1934 of Communist functionary Sergei Kirov, and how Adolf Hitler took advantage of the Reichstag fire in 1933 to launch a crackdown.

At this point in time, we don’t know which explanation is more persuasive. But the next few days or weeks may provide tentative answers. If Putin intensifies his genocide of Ukrainians, we may reliably conclude that the National Republican Army is an FSB creation. If, alternatively, Putin cracks down at home, it’s likely that the Army is for real. Either way, the assassination bespeaks a regime that is in serious trouble. It is either grasping at straws in its desperation not to lose the war, or it is facing genuine opposition at home. 

Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, including Pidsumky imperii (2009); Puti imperii (2004); Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires (2001); Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities (1999); Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism (1993); and The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (1980); the editor of 15 volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism (2000) and The Holodomor Reader (2012); and a contributor of dozens of articles to academic and policy journals, newspaper op-ed pages, and magazines. He also has a weekly blog, “Ukraine’s Orange Blues.”

Written By

Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, including Pidsumky imperii (2009); Puti imperii (2004); Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires (2001); Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities (1999); Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism (1993); and The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (1980); the editor of 15 volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism (2000) and The Holodomor Reader (2012); and a contributor of dozens of articles to academic and policy journals, newspaper op-ed pages, and magazines. He also has a weekly blog, “Ukraine’s Orange Blues.”

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Mark

    August 22, 2022 at 3:20 pm

    Could this be this conflict’s “Gleiwitz Incident”? The excuse Putin is looking for to turn a special operation into a full scale war?

    Let’s see how the Kremlin’s tame media covers the story over the coming days.

  2. Friend

    August 22, 2022 at 4:35 pm

    It’s an empire that’s ruled with an iron fist by a movement that doubles as a political party. Who wouldn’t? The Ukraine events could have made it possible for anybody to take advantage of weakened security back home

  3. Roman Serbyn

    August 22, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    The NRA Manifesto is most remarkable! Written by an army that presumably came to life during Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine, it does not even mention the victim of Russia’s aggression:
    “We call on the soldiers of the Russian army to stop shooting at our brothers in other countries – Georgia, Syria and other countries.”
    Looks like a sloppy copy/paste job from some old texts. Not noticing Ukraine is rather Putinist…

  4. Roman Serbyn

    August 22, 2022 at 7:20 pm

    These passeges in the Manifesto suggest that this is a sloppy cut and paste job by the FSB.
    – “We, Russian activists, soldiers and politicians, now drive out the partisans and fighters of the National Republican Army, the warlords, robbers and oppressors of the people of Russia!
    – “We declare President Putin a power usurper and a war criminal, who amended the constitution, started a fraternal war between Slavic nations and sent Russian troops to certain and senseless deaths.
    -“We call on the soldiers of the Russian army to stop shooting at our brothers in other countries – Georgia, Syria and other countries.
    Not once is Ukraine mentioned in the Manifesto.

  5. TG

    August 23, 2022 at 12:53 am

    Or, the Ukrainians are looking to bait Putin into over-reacting. Maybe Putin hits all the administrative buildings in Ukraine (now empty of anything other than disposable serfs), and kills the Ukrainian electric grid – and reduces Ukraine to desperation and starvation – and Polish and American troops enter the war directly.

  6. 403Forbidden

    August 23, 2022 at 12:56 am

    The ukrainian secret service carried out the operation.

    A female agent of ukro agency entered russia via a border crossing in donbass region and followed dugina for several days before planting the explosive under her toyota Land Cruiser.

    The agent then fled across the russia-estonia border clearly revealing the job was coordinated via ‘international’ efforts, not just some ukros acting alone.

    Time for russia to brandish its thermo hammer.

  7. ptownpt

    August 23, 2022 at 5:17 am

    Creepy Ukrainian neoNazi sympathizes are coming out of the woodwork to try to deny the Zelensky regime’s alleged SBU/AZOV role in the botched assassination of Alexander Dugin. The alledged perp’s new dilemma is she has become a huge political liability to the regime and she is now in mortal danger of having a fatal “accident” that silences her forever. She and her alleged SBU handlers both know the Russians want to keep her alive and that her best option now for her long term survival is in the custody and cooperation with the Russian justice system.

  8. Mario

    August 23, 2022 at 11:05 am

    “Who Would Want To Kill Daria Dugina?”
    vladimir putin.
    That’s all folks!!!

  9. Mario

    August 23, 2022 at 11:08 am

    The hand of the fsb is evident: West uses C4, subhumans uses RDX…

  10. Stefan Stackhouse

    August 23, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    If I were the Ukrainians and wanted to infiltrate Russia with an agent to carry out an assassination, who would I want to target? A loud-mouthed ideologue with no real power, or his daughter, or someone high up in the military or political leadership? Clue: for what have they been using the weapons that they have had at their disposal?Answer: They have been targeting as many Russian senior officers as they could hit. Reason: Nothing degrades the Russian military faster, and at lower cost. Why would they not follow the same principle if they were trying to reach closer to the center through a covert operation? This gives me reason to doubt that this actually was a Ukrainian operation.

    If you were Putin or in his circle, and wanted to see something outrageous happen, something that would both rile up the Russian population and bring them more solidly behind the war effort, and at the same time make the Ukrainians look bad, then what might you do? Maybe some sort of “false flag” operation that hits something or someone far behind the front line, near the Russian capital itself. Something or someone both high-profile yet not all that costly to lose. Someone like a blowhard ideologue, or even better his mini-blowhard and obscure daughter, would fit the bill nicely.

    “Cui bono?” – who benefits? – is always a useful question. I don’t see the Ukrainians benefiting from this at all. I can imagine ways in which Putin and his circle could use it to their benefit.

  11. Steve Willson

    August 23, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    This appears to be a classic Russian maskirovka. The only person or organization that benefitted from this assassination was Vladimir Putin, who will use it as an excuse to tighten internal security. You know,kind of like the Democrats are using January 6th?

  12. KB

    August 23, 2022 at 10:22 pm

    Putin’s Russia has no justice system.

    The FSB is amazing, trying to present that supposed “Azov” ID as real evidence. Ten year old kids can photoshop better than that. And why would she have brought that on “secret mission,” as well as her daughter, and a foreign car that would attract notice? What else did she have? a green wig? a fresh-in-the-wrapper swastika t-shirt? a framed picture of Zelensky? Three copies of “The Sims” video game? Hand-written instructions by that great Ukrainian spy-master “Signature Unclear”?

    You would think that the security agency of a regime built on lies would be better at telling them.

    This would be funny except for all the innocent Ukrainians who are going to die as Putin’s military demonstrates why “Russian Civilization” is fast becoming a contradiction in terms, as they claim to seek revenge for something they probably did themselves.

  13. Mario

    August 24, 2022 at 7:30 am

    The “Cártel de san petersburgo” (also known as fsb) has been extremely diligent and fast solving this “crime”.
    Although, conveniently, the alleged perpetrator is now in a country that is not going to extradite her. Russian “security services” are known by their murders, robberies, rapes, lies, failures, extortion, conspiracies, inefficiency, servility, corruption…
    Who is the fool who believes them?

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