On August 21, Darya Dugina, the daughter of Alexandr Dugin who is considered an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was killed in a car bomb explosion. Later that day, the Russian Investigative Committee announced the official opinion of investigators that it was an assassination. Putin expressed his condolences for Dugina’s death, while Vladimir Solovyov, the Kremlin’s chief propagandist, wrote on the Telegram channel that Putin should give her a posthumous medal for bravery.
According to Russia’s government, a Ukrainian citizen named Natalya Vovk who fled from Russia to Estonia is responsible for the attack. As a result, several Russian political leaders and propaganda media representatives have spoken out with threats against Estonia. The Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Committee of the Russian Federation Council, Vladimir Dzabarov, wrote in Telegram that if Estonia refuses to extradite Vovk then there is a reason to take “harsh actions” against the Estonian government. Margarita Simonyan, head of the Russian propaganda channel RT, made hints on Twitter about sending special services to Estonia, while also seeming to confirm that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England in 2018. Adalbi Shhagoshev, a member of the Russian State Duma interviewed by RIA Novosti, claimed that the killing of Dugina could have been coordinated with the Estonian special services and that relations between Estonia and Russia depend on the extradition of the perpetrator.
However, on 22 August, the Financial Times revealed in an article that they had spoken by phone with former Russian Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryev, who lives in Kyiv, and who claimed that a group of Russian partisan soldiers, who had also claimed responsibility for the attack, was responsible. Ponomaryev, a Putin opponent, read a manifesto of this alleged group on his YouTube channel on Sunday night and showed a short clip of a man in camouflage clothing.
However, evidence for any claim is lacking and, despite the inflammatory rhetoric against Estonia, no formal contact was made with Estonia regarding the claims of a connection. There remains no evidence presented to suggest that Vovk was involved in the car bomb or its installation.
Estonian Defense Research director Indrek Kannik spoke on the ETV program Ringvaade about the possibility that it could have been an FSB operation or a non-politically motivated murder. According to Kannik, the course of events that the FSB has presented in its official version indicates a failure of the FSB.
According to Lauri Linnamäe’s analysis, the photo that the FSB published of Vovki’s alleged military ID for the Azov Regiment shows signs of forgery. Vladislav Zhavoronok, a soldier of the Azov regiment, also doubted its authenticity, saying the document does not belong to a soldier of the Asov regiment. The Washington Post also acknowledged in a story published on August 22 that the publication failed to verify Russia’s claims.
Due to the lack of formal contact with Estonia over the matter, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu added: “We regard this as one instance of provocation in a very long line of provocations by the Russian Federation, and we have nothing more to say about it at the moment.”