The car bomb that killed hardline TV commentator Daria Dugina near Moscow was the work of a Ukrainian woman who fled to Estonia after the blast, the Russian security service said Monday, less than two days after the incident.
“The crime was prepared and committed by the Ukrainian special services,” the Russians said in a statement outlining their findings on Saturday night’s explosion.
Ukraine presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed the claim, tweeting that Russian propaganda “lives in a fictional world.” Estonian officials released a statement saying, “We have not received any official requests for information from Russia concerning this matter.”
Dugina was the daughter of prominent ultranationalist Alexander Dugin, a strong supporter of the invasion who has for years called for Russian annexation of Ukraine and who might have been the blast’s intended target. Russian media quoted witnesses as saying the SUV Dugina was driving belonged to Dugin and that he had decided at the last minute to travel in another vehicle. Father and daughter have been sanctioned by the US
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to Dugina’s family for the “cruel and treacherous” killing and posthumously awarded her the Order of Courage, one of the country’s highest medals.
Angry Russians demanded attacks on Ukrainian government buildings, raising the prospect of escalating hostilities in the nearly six-month war, and Ukrainian government employees were told to work from home this week. The Kyiv military administration has banned mass events in the city through Thursday due to the “high probability” of rocket attacks.
Russian security services said suspect Natalia Vovk arrived in Moscow a month ago with her 12-year-old daughter and rented an apartment in the building where Dugina lived. On the day of the blast, Vovk and her daughter di lei attended the literary and music festival Tradition, where Dugina was an honorary guest. After the remote-controlled explosion, Vovk and her daughter di lei fled through the Pskov Region to Estonia, the security services said.
Saturday was Estonia’s Restoration of Independence Day, marking 31 years since the end of Russia’s occupation of the nation of 1.3 million people.
►Almost 9,000 Ukrainian “heroes” have died in the war, Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the Ukraine military, said Monday. Russia has not released its fatality totals.
►German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, visiting Canada this week as he seeks to reduce his country’s reliance on Russian energy, is expected to sign a deal with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to supply clean hydrogen to Germany.
►A poll of Ukrainians founds that 92% of respondents believe their country will win the war. The survey was conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Foundation, an independent Ukrainian think tank.
►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be awarded this year’s Liberty Medal for “his heroic defense of liberty in the face of Russian tyranny,” the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia said Monday.
►Air defenses in the Crimean city of Sevastopol repelled an Ukrainian assault at a military airfield, Russian-appointed regional leader Mikhail Razvozhayev said via Telegram on Sunday, a day after a drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet in the same city also apparently failed.
Dugin says revenge in daughter’s death not enough, calls for ‘victory’
Far-right political writer Alexander Dugin, often referred to as “Putin’s brain, ” issued a statement dismissing calls for vengeance in the car bombing death of his daughter, instead urging Russians to focus on winning the war.
Dugin said Daria Dugina was “brutally killed by an explosion in front of my eyes.” He lauded her “profound, grounded and restrained” hardline speeches and said she never called for violence. He said a memorial service would be held Tuesday.
“She was a rising star at the beginning of her journey,” Dugin said. “Our hearts yearn for more than just revenge or retribution. It’s too petty, not in the Russian style. We only need our victory.”
Teams from two of Ukraine’s most embattled cities will help kick off Tuesday’s return of top-level soccer, as the 16-club Premier League plays its first matches since before the Russian invasion.
Metalist 1925 from Kharkiv and Shakhtar Donetsk – one eastern city under repeated Russian shelling, the other one trying to fend off the invaders’ advances – will meet in a poignant and highly symbolic season opener at Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium.
Amid the chaos and hardship caused by the war, the clubs will do their part to provide a sense of joy and normalcy under highly irregular conditions. Neither team is playing at home, fans won’t be allowed at the 65,000-capacity stadium in the capital city’s downtown, and if air-raid sirens sound, the players will be rushed to bomb shelters. All matches will be played in the Kyiv area or further west away from the fighting.
“We are ready, we are strong and I think we will show to all the world Ukrainian life and will to win,” Shakhtar captain Taras Stepanenko told The Associated Press.
The league’s return to action, endorsed by the nation’s leaders, takes place on Ukraine’s flag day and one day ahead of Wednesday’s celebration of independence from control by the Soviet Union, which the former republic declared in 1991.
The Ukrainian Premier League took its scheduled winter break in mid-December and was supposed to restart Feb. 25 – the after Russia invaded, forcing games to be canceled as everyday life got overturned for much of the country.
Soccer federation president Andriy Pavelko said he has talked with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “about how important football is to distract. We spoke about how it would be possible that football could help us think about the future.”
Ukraine asked the United Nations and the Red Cross to act against sham trials in Mariupol. Dmytro Lubinets, Ukraine’s commissioner for human rights, appealed to both organizations to prevent “yet another violation of the Geneva Convention.” Russian-backed authorities are reportedly planning to hold a trial Wednesday – Ukraine’s Independence Day – for fighters captured at the Azovstal steel plant in the final days of the ill-fated defense of Mariupol.
“If this despicable show trial takes place … this will be the line beyond which any negotiations are impossible,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. “Russia will cut itself off from the negotiations. There will be no more conversations.”
Russia’s failure to capture the second half of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region may be due in part to its inability “to motivate the auxiliary forces it is using to augment its regular troops,” the British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Monday.
The Kremlin took control of the Luhansk province in July with help from Ukrainian separatists from that area, but some of those fighters refused to engage in battle for the Donetsk province, the ministry said, citing evidence circulating in Ukrainian social media. That part of the Donbas remains contested.
Threats and intimidation from senior commanders failed to sway the fighters, the ministry said, adding that Russian leaders are resorting to financial incentives to have enough troops capable of carrying out offensive operations.
EU foreign policy chief opposes blanket ban on Russian visas
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called on the bloc not to ban all Russian visas, saying the EU shouldn’t open its doors to oligarchs but many Russians want to flee the country amid its invasion of Ukraine.
Estonia Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin are among European leaders calling on the EU to stop issuing tourist visas to all Russians. The Finnish government agreed last week to cut back the number of visas issued to Russians after tourists began entering Finland en route to European vacations following Russia’s lifting of pandemic-related border restrictions a month ago.
“To forbid the entrance to all Russians is not a good idea,” Borrell said.
Contributing: The Associated Press