Putin issued eerie ultimatum as Ukraine shows off military might
When Darya Dugina‘s car recently exploded in Moscow, the Kremlin immediately took the opportunity to pin the blame on an unidentified Ukrainian “sabotage and terrorist group”. Russia alleged that the group had acquired fake documents and put together the car bomb in a garage in southern Moscow. Kyiv immediately dismissed suggestions that any Ukrainian national had carried out the plot, a spokesperson for President Volodymyr Zelensky saying that “we are not a criminal state, unlike Russia, and definitely not a terrorist state”.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) — the main successor to the Soviet Union’s formidable KGB — shortly after the bombing released video footage of what they claimed was the main suspect.
Crucially, however, the agency failed to provide any evidence that the alleged suspect had been involved in the killing.
Dugina’s death marks a significant turning point in the Ukraine war, according to the likes of Dr Yuri Feshtinsky and other academics who have spent decades analysing and studying the machinations of the Kremlin.
Dr Yuri, who co-authored the book ‘Blowing Up Russia’ with the assassinated former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, believes that the bomb was an inside job, telling Express.co.uk that the killing was authorised high up and carried out by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU), the country’s foreign intelligence agency.
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Dugina is no stranger to the Kremlin or the Russian public: the 29-year-old made regular appearances on Russian state-backed TV channels as a commentator and was a strong supporter of the war in Ukraine.
Her father, Alexsandr Dugin, is believed to be the ideological driving force behind Putin’s Russia, often described as the President’s “brain”, and whose politics follows an extreme form of Russian nationalism.
According to Dr Yuri, who is also author of ‘Blowing up Ukraine: The Return of Russian Terror and the Threat of World War III‘, it is this last point that has put Dugin’s life on the line, the car bomb in fact intended for an ideologue grown too big for his own good.
Noting how Dugin has a connection to the GRU through his father Geli, Dr Yuri, who left the Soviet Union for the US in 1978, says: “One of the reasons for his closeness to the GRU is that his father was its Lieutenant General, a very high position, and died in 1998.
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“In the GRU, there is a tradition to kill a child with their parent: in the case of Sergei Skripal they targeted him and his daughter, and then there was the famous murder of the former President of the Chechen Republic Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev who was killed in February 2004 in Qatar by similar methods, a bomb was placed under his car and he was killed — his son was in the car with him.
“This pushes me to the conclusion that if we are looking for people who are behind this attempt, we probably should look at the GRU: the bomb has all the hallmarks of a GRU execution.”
Many have noted that Dugin has no explicit ties to the Kremlin, and that his influence on Putin is disputed, potentially over-exaggerated.
Yet, Dugin himself has in the past voiced his admiration for the Russian leader, in 2007 stating: “There are no more opponents of Putin’s course and, if there are, they are mentally ill and need to be sent off for clinical examination. Putin is everywhere, Putin is everything, Putin is absolute, and Putin is indispensable.”
Dugin’s philosophy underpins the reestablishment of Russia’s empire, something Putin himself has been accused of wanting to recreate in the modern day.
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His writings from the Nineties appear to foreshadow exactly the position Europe has got itself in the 21st century: a West overly dependent on a Russia that is slowly sowing discord among its enemies.
Putin, Dr Yuri believes, is keen to distance himself away from claims that his foreign policy is straight from Dugin’s writings, hence the alleged botched assassination attempt.
But would the Russian President or any of his followers go as far as to eliminate an integral part of a Russian philosophical movement?
“Dugin was supposed to be in that car, definitely, he just at the last moment made a decision to sit in another car travelling behind the first one,” says Dr Yuri.
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“There is the famous story of Rasputin who was killed right before the Russian Revolution because some people thought he was dangerous for the monarchy, and that in order to save Tsarism, they needed to kill Rasputin.
“The monarchy, of course, was never saved, but today, there is a possibility that whoever was trying to take Dugin down was doing a favour for Putin and for Russia: in other words, they may have believed that Dugin was becoming too extreme.
“Dugin openly said he was close to Putin, but that is not necessarily so.
“There is a possibility that he was bluffing or simply creating a myth, trying to use this ‘closeness’ for his personal gains and ambitions.”
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Others believe Dugin’s ‘bluff’ may be the real thing.
In May, Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle described Russia as having been “running his [Dugin’s] playbook for the past 20 years,” a move that has brought us “to the brink of another world war”.
He went on to claim that the influence could be seen in Putin’s long speech on the eve of his Ukraine invasion, in which he formally recognised the independence of the two self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Dugin has since 2014 described his position on the rebel-held areas as “unconditionally pro-DPR and pro-LPR”, and is thought to have been in contact with pro-Russian separatists operating in both regions.
His daughter’s death has sparked concerns that the Kremlin may use it in order to justify a wave of violence against Ukrainian politicians.
Putin is not known to have ever met Dugin, but awarded his daughter a posthumous medal for bravery, branding the bombing as a “vile, cruel crime”.