Mon, 22 August 2022 at 12:34 pm
A Russian ultra-nationalist and ally of President Vladimir Putin was probably the intended target of a Moscow car bombing – but it is “unlikely” Ukraine was behind the attack, a former UK ambassador to Russia has said.
Russian state investigators said Darya Dugina, daughter of political theorist Alexander Dugin, was killed after a suspected explosive device detonated on the Toyota Land Cruiser she was travelling in on Saturday evening, which belonged to her father.
The pair had been attending a festival outside the Russian capital, and Ms Dugina had reportedly decided to switch cars at the last minute.
Asked about suggestions Ukraine was behind the killing, ex-UK ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Brenton told Sky News: “I think actually it’s quite unlikely.”
He said: “Russia is a pretty tightly controlled state at the moment, and for a state which they are at war [with] to organise a car bombing in Moscow – bang in the centre of Russian security concerns – looks like a pretty tough order.
“If they could do it, Dugin wouldn’t be the most obvious target. There are lots of other more influential Russians around who they could have gone for.”
Footage showed Mr Dugin at the scene after the explosion, his hands clutching his head in horror.
Sir Tony did not rule out the possibility the daughter – who had appeared on state TV to offer support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine – may have been the intended target as she shared her father’s right-wing views, but added Mr Dugin is “a much better known figure than she was”.
“Putin has quoted him and knows his work,” he said.
He said the Russian president would see it as an attack “probably from the West, or supported by the West” on his mission to make Russia great again.
There are “all sorts of wild conspiracy theories”, Sir Tony said, including that some obscure Russian partisan group was responsible for the bombing, or the nationalists themselves in Russia had done it as a way of getting the government to be tougher in the war.
“It remains unclear and is subject to investigation,” Sir Tony said.
“The most likely consequence, whatever the investigation produces – and the investigation results will undoubtedly be massaged – the sure consequence of this, is that it strengthens pressure on the Russian authorities to propagate their war as toughly as they can… and to strengthen the support of the Russian people for the war.”
Ukraine has denied it was involved, and has blamed internal power struggles between “various political factions” in Russia for the attack.
Mr Dugin has long called for the unification of Russian-speaking and other territories in a vast new Russian empire.
Sir Tony said it was unclear how much influence Mr Dugin had on the Russian leader, but they shared the view “that Russia is the greatest nation on Earth, that it has maintained its greatness amongst other things by incorporating key Slavic Nations, including Ukraine, and therefore the Russian action against Ukraine is entirely justified”.
However, he said Mr Putin was likely “a disappointed man” in terms of the progress of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been slow despite its massive artillery superiority.
“It looks like the war is heading towards and already may be at a stalemate,” Sir Tony said.
“The operation went badly wrong in the beginning, they failed to occupy Kyiv in three days as they had been expecting, substantially narrowing their aims to occupying the east of Ukraine and actually aren’t getting very far there.”
“Quite clear signals have been coming out of Moscow that they are ready to talk… a sign of an admission on their part that they are not going to achieve their initial objectives,” he added.