We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Discussion point: the car bomb that killed Darya Dugina

On 20th August 2022 a car bomb near Moscow killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of the Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, who was probably the intended target.

I am away from home at the moment and cannot easily link, but the story is everywhere.

Here are some of my reactions to the killing. I list them roughly in the order that I had them, rather than making any attempt to list them in order of importance.

My first thought was that this killing was ordered by the Ukrainians and was both a crime and a blunder. The rules of war exist for a reason. The fact that Mr Dugin has, and his daughter had, abhorrent views is not the point. Assassination of civilians is several steps along the way to making it a case of “they’re as bad as each other”. Along with many others I support Ukraine in this war because the two sides are not remotely equivalent: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine the victim. Ukraine squanders that moral capital at its peril.

However, with their usual stunning incompetence at propaganda, an organ of the present Russian government reminded the world that they are quite happy to send assassins to other countries to murder their political enemies, and without the excuse of being at war. Margarita Simonyan, head of the RT television channel, formerly known as Russia Today, said that if the Ukrainians did not hand over the person allegedly responsible, a woman called Natalia Vovk, then Russia ought to send a hit squad to “admire the spires around Tallinn” – a clear, gloating reference to the 2018 Salisbury poisonings. If Putin’s methods are used against Putin’s supporters, why should anyone else in the world care?

The story about Natalia Vovk is odd in several respects. She is alleged to be an agent of the Ukrainian secret services. She is also alleged to have spied on Ms Dugina from a Mini Cooper. Surely a trained secret agent would not choose such a noticeable vehicle? Even more strangely, she is alleged to have taken her eleven or twelve year old daughter along on her deadly mission. While it is not unknown for terrorist groups to use children because children are less likely to be suspected, in these particular circumstances what would she have gained by bringing any child, let alone her own daughter?

If not Natalia Vovk, then who? Some say a Russian anti-government group called the National Resistance Army. Others say an internecine struggle between different factions of the FSB. Or the Russian mafia – not everything has to be political. Of course the Ukrainian government could be still be ultimately responsible even if the actual killing was carried out by any of these.

28 comments to Discussion point: the car bomb that killed Darya Dugina

  • Is it a crime? Civilians get killed in war, so what is the difference? That it was a deliberate strike against an individual who was, arguably, a legitimate target? War is nasty. People get killed. In this case, the wrong target, but again, that happens in war.

  • Kevin Jaeger

    Yes, deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime. If you don’t condemn a crime like this you have no standing to accuse or try anyone of war crimes.

    While I have no idea if Natalia Vovk actually did the killing or who she worked for it appears she and her associates have Azov connections, so it’s certainly possible. But in this era where all news is thick with propaganda and spin I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions without more evidence.

    As for travelling with a child, it makes sense that she would enter Russia just like hundreds of thousands of other Ukrainian refugees have done. A young mother fleeing with children largely gets welcomed into the country with little scrutiny.

  • jmc

    I watched the coverage of the story on Channel 1 RU TV news. On Vremya. It was the lead story and got lots of coverage. The Russians did it. The FSB. The story told on Vremya and the other Russian news shows is so bloody stupid on so many levels. It was a Russian hit. No different from all the staged raids by various security services done against “subversives” that have been a mainstay of domestic Russian TV news for the last six months.

    She was killed for Moscow political reasons. The target was no accident. Putin has been looking pretty narky the last week or two on the daily “Imperial Audiences” TV news segments. Not his usually debonair self. Even the big military trade show in Moscow did not seem to cheer him up much. But based on the one hour TV special on Sunday night I’d guess Putin is planning a spectacular false flag at the Ukrainian power plant very soon. It was classic priming propaganda. From the Der Sturmer school of propaganda.

  • I’m sure Putin does not fear small isolated anti-war elements in Russia. But he probably does fear the Russkiy Mir fanatics, the True Believers, and those have started to express serious disquiet that Russia did not win the war in Ukraine months ago. If Putin has shown he is weak, well, then he is no longer the new Peter the Great, and Moscow’s aspirations to be seen as the New Rome (not joking) are starting to look very shaky indeed.

    I suspect Darya Dugin was killed by some adjunct of the FSB as a warning to the True Believers, reminding them who is in charge.

  • During WWII, the UK adopted the tactic of attempting to assassinate enemy leaders in 1942 (not earlier IIRC) and used it successfully against Reinhard Heydrich and unsuccessfully against Rommel, etc.

    Goebbels had a field day propagandising about the ‘ungentlemanly’ British tactics against Rommel (whom, some two and a bit years later, the Nazis forced to commit suicide for his tacit part in the July 20th plot).

    Goering attributed Reinhard’s assassination to his having been a politically competent ruler of the Czech protectorate:

    “If Heydrich had trampled over the Czechs with hobnailed boots, the British secret service would have kept a careful watch to ensure nothing happened to him.”

    The Nazis massacred the village of Lidice to avenge his death.

  • Steven R

    It can’t be a war crime since there is no war. It’s a “special military operation to de-Nazify Ukraine” or some such thing.

    On a human level, it sucks for her, especially if she had absolutely nothing to do with Putin except be related to one of his backers. But if it causes some of Russia’s movers and shakers to reconsider their support, then maybe the Ukrainians feel clipping one Russian is a fair price to pay to put pressure on Putin.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Not knowing who is responsible for the assassination, we can better discuss matters of principle.

    For instance, would Alexander Dugin be a legitimate target for Ukrainian special forces, or for a Russian insurgency?

    Having just checked Dugin’s age on Wikipedia, i am inclined to think that maybe he is. He is 10 years younger than Putin. Assassinating him would be sort-of a lobotomy of the Russian regime. This would not be terrorism (which hardly ever works): it would be striking at a nerve center of enemy forces.

    Needless to say, this is very much debatable.

  • Chester Draws

    It makes no sense to be Ukranian. Their hit list in Russia is one person long. Nobody else matters but Putin.

    Hit him and things will change. No-one else is that true for.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Bear in mind that Putin’s goons have been accused – and with quite a bit of circumstantial evidence – of creating “terrorist” incidents to whip up hatreds and bolster support for his “strong man” regime. Indeed, this happened 20 years or so ago, it is claimed, when Vlad rose to power. See here.

    But without solid evidence, who knows what the cause was? I don’t, and given the state of war at the moment, I doubt a clear answer is likely to be found for some time.

  • In WWII, the British government had several policies of no-first use – but if Hitler does it we’ll retaliate in kind.

    1) Area bombing: the allies proclaimed they would only bomb military targets – provided Adolf did likewise, and (not so admirably IMHO) kept to that even after they knew well that the Germans had bombed Warsaw. Given the general inaccuracy of bombing, you can make a case that the specifically German-British escalation was in part the result of bombing errors by one side hitting civilian areas, leading to retaliation by the other side, and so on. That the Germans started the practice in general is clear.

    2) Gas: the allies made it clear to Germany that they would not initiate gas warfare but would swiftly retaliate in kind to any German use of it anywhere in the war. The Russians were vulnerable to gas and these western threats played their part in the Germans not resorting to it on the eastern front. Despite the UK’s public stance, the decision was made in 1940 to attack German beachheads with mustard gas as a last resort if all other means of defence failed. Churchill alludes indirectly to it in his memoirs (“we would have gone to all lengths”) but the specific decision about gas was kept very secret until afterwards.

    There is an interesting reflection to be made about both gas and bombing.

    – The Germans mistakenly thought that we knew of the nerve gasses they had invented (in fact, the UK did not have the least suspicion they existed). Had we initiated gas warfare, and revealed by using mustard gas against the invasion beaches that we had no gas more powerful, it could have rebounded badly on us.

    – Had the Germans refrained from area bombing, constraining their air force to attack armies and military targets only, they would have lost virtually nothing from how they conquered France and how they fought the war against Russia, and would have greatly benefitted from any resulting restraint maintained by western air forces.

    So, on the one hand, moral virtue is not the only thing one can lose by deciding to go ‘to all lengths’. On the other hand, no first use – but swift retaliation if the enemy does – is a very well-precedented policy. I note that Putin is notorious for assassinating enemies inside and outside Russia.

    While the Germans murdered hostages in spades, and etc., it could be argued that for the high-ranking leaders of a WWII state to order, plan and execute the assassination of high-ranking leaders of the enemy state is a policy the UK initiated. The Germans were not in the least ‘above that’ – Hitler mused about assassination as policy at times – but IIRC it played a larger role in our actions than in theirs.

  • rhoda klapp

    I find myself bemused that killing named innocent civilians in the enemy’s homeland is deemed different, morally worse, than killing random civilians with area weapons.

    The US killed Yamamoto after a certain amount of deliberation in 1943, long after he was a real threat.

  • rhoda klapp (August 24, 2022 at 9:27 am), Operation Vengeance killed Yamamoto by standard military means: codebreaking identified Yamamoto’s flight path, enabling long-range fighters with drop-tanks from Guadalcanal to intercept it and shoot down two bombers, one of which carried Yamamoto. It was an assassination in intent but an ordinary act of war in method.

    It could be argued of course that Heydrich’s assassination was a fairly ordinary act of resistance in method, and Rommel’s attempted assassination a fairly ordinary deep-penetration desert raid of the SAS in method. But insofar as a distinction can be drawn in general, the way Yamamoto was killed falls well on the ‘ordinary act of war’ side.

  • Snorri Godhi

    A practical consideration is that any Ukrainian assassination team would not be covered by the Geneva convention. As in the case of the team that killed Heydrych.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I’ve seen tweets out there arguing that Dugin junior was very much a political player in her own right which suggests she could have been the target.

  • James Hargrave

    Niall Kilmartin.

    Re Heydrich – surely that was, in inspiration the Czech pseudo-government in exile trying to show its relevance and scope for action under the inexpressibly awful, solipsistic (look at his entry in Who’s Who – or, rather, measure it), vindictive little shit Doctor Benes (the foreign policy expert who clearly couldn’t read a map so often did he get it wrong). Liditz – probably a price worth paying.

    In memoriam Hacha, Syrovy, Beran and especially Elias.

  • Paul Marks

    The ideas of the mystic Alexander Dugin are nonsense – they can not stand up to debate.

    The only thing that could give the ideas of Alexander Dugin dignity is to murder him or to murder a member of his family – and although Mr Putin does not really believe in the ideas of Dugin (Mr Putin is not really a mystic – he is more of an Al Capone type) he gains by this murder, it makes what he has been saying about the Ukrainians and the West SEEM true (even though it is not true).

    Whoever ordered this murder is an idiot as well as a murderer.

    Patrick – yes the lady was her father’s daughter and pushed his ideas. It was still murder, and gross stupidity, to murder her.

  • rhoda klapp

    Just because the ruling classes are partially protected by the law from assassination does not make this bomb, if set by a Ukrainian, morally different* from a not-very-accurate munition targetting civvies in Ukraine. There’s a war on and the Ukraine so far refrains from targetting across the pre-2014 border.

    * Although it well be unwise.

  • bobby b

    I suspect there would be many fewer wars if we rid ourselves of “proportionate response” and “rules.”

    “I’m going to start violence against your country and kill as many of your fighters as I can, but if I fail to win, I know that we will only pay this certain price” simply means that people will forever be calculating and deciding the risk is acceptable, especially when the “rules” make them personally secure.

  • AndrewZ

    Cui Bono? It doesn’t benefit the Ukrainians to kill either Alexander Dugin or Darya Dugina. They did not have any control over Russian foreign policy, and killing either one would only create a martyr for Russian nationalism.

    But such a figure would be a useful political tool for the Russian state, regardless of whether Putin actually believes in any of Dugin’s bloodthirsty mystic jingoism. Blaming it on the previously-unknown “National Republican Army” provides an excuse to crack down on internal opposition, and as Perry says, it also sends a message to disgruntled ultra-nationalists that they’d better not cause any trouble.

    The prime suspect should be the one with most to gain.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Some quite thoughtful comments here.
    I have my opinions about them, some positive, some critical; but i feel that people would be better advised to use their own brains.
    (No, i am not being sarcastic.)

  • Plamus

    From what I have read, Dugin is various Western experts’ way to make sense of Putin, but just because Putin says some of the same things Dugin does, that does not make one an acolyte of the other. Dugin is an academic and reads Heidegger; Putin is a silovik – he despises navel-gazers and reads nothing. I cannot find it in English, but here is a video in Russian of him saying that love of beards is one of the fundamental virtues of Slavic Orthodox men, and that shaving an act of ritual self-castration, and that it was imported by Peter the Great, who also imported homosexualism. Putin does not have a beard [wink].

  • Truth is the daughter of time, Darya Dugina was the daughter of Alexander Dugin, and Iphigenia was the daughter of Agamemnon. The truth of Darya’s death has yet to be born, but the range of plausible explanations is broadening.

    Ms. Dugina had become problematic in terms of her presentations to the West, discussions in public of what she would do if she was the defense minister versus her cynical reversals in private, and even attempts to usurp her father. Neither are the close Putin allies they portrayed themselves as being, as I noted yesterday that is a thing of the West, not Russia.

    While I’m not quite (yet) prepared to agree fully with Kamil Galeev’s take on the matter, he makes some good points. One not raised directly is that the Kremlin was ready to roll with the propaganda even before the smoke cleared. That means advanced planning, which means she was sacrificed.

    (Quoted from here, h/t instapundit.)

    Kamil Galeev thinks Darya was likely the real target, and “If Alexander knew it all beforehand, I won’t be much surprised”. Kamil is struck by the way Dugin described his daughter’s death as a “maiden sacrifice” in the context of his general philosophical enthusiasm for sacrifice. If I were to give a name to what he’s suggesting, the name would be Iphigenia.

    Time is still giving birth right now – and likely the few who truly know will be the last to say. But I was reminded of the early days after Stalin had Kirov murdered. Even among his enemies,

    That Stalin should have murdered Kirov – on the face of it his closest ally and collaborator – seemed absurd. When the idea was raised in the west by some defectors and others better acquainted with the circumstances, it was thought hardly worth discussing. (Conquest, quoted from memory.)

    The wisdom of Snorri’s advice in the thread above – discuss principles because those reflections won’t go out-of-date when time uncovers the real culprits – is clear. Meanwhile, I’ll bet a pound – but not my life savings – on the Iphigenia take proving more accurate than the ‘Ukranian-state-ordered assassination’ one in the end, however many useful idiots treat the former as ‘hardly worth discussing’ between now and then.

  • X7C00

    All the local video cameras were down. Boy those Ukrainians are good.

  • Kirk

    Anyone taking what comes out of Russia at face value is dangerously naive. Nothing that comes out of that circus fun-house of distortion can be taken seriously, especially anything coming out of the government.

    I’ve no idea about who assassinated Dugina. I do know that whatever the Russian government says is about as likely to be true as the pronouncements of that raving loony homeless guy down on the corner, so you can do your own math.

    Whatever party is responsible, I doubt we’ll ever find out the reality of it. It’s like the Sarajevo assassination of Franz Josef; who was actually behind the Black Hand? Was it Serbian military intelligence? The Russian Imperial intelligence agencies? Free-lance idiocy? Who knows, at this point?

    You pays your money, you takes your chances. Could be anyone, and if you showed me credible documentation saying that there were time-traveling space aliens behind it all, I’d be about as likely to believe that as anything else you might come up with.

  • bobby b

    “Anyone taking what comes out of Russia at face value is dangerously naive. Nothing that comes out of that circus fun-house of distortion can be taken seriously, especially anything coming out of the government.”

    Sounds much like my country these days. Substitute in “the USA” for “Russia” and it works just as well.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Sounds much like my country these days. Substitute in “the USA” for “Russia” and it works just as well.

    Come on, bobby, it’s not that bad!
    There is still something left of the Constitution; and federalism; and Instapundit, and the NY Post, etc.

    (Having said that, if i had to choose between Biden and Putin, all other things being equal, i’d probably choose the latter. But not all other things are equal.)

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    Sounds much like my country these days. Substitute in “the USA” for “Russia” and it works just as well.

    Let’s play a game, shall we? It is called Russia or America. I give you a scenario and you have to tell me if it happened in Russia or America.

    Government arrests or threatens to arrest the main opposition politician?
    Government has the press suppress stories it doesn’t want the public to hear?
    Government sends goons to invade and search the home of their opposition?
    Government hires army of goons to snoop on, harass, fine and violate the privacy of every citizen?
    Government uses schools to indoctrinate children with laughably foolish nonsense?

    Which is it? Russia or America?

  • Paul Marks

    Yes – the people in the West, including in the United States, who say they hate Russia the most are the very people who want to bring Putin-style tyranny to the West – torturing and murdering dissenters.

    For example, see the “Twitter mob” (and, sadly, they are typical of the “educated”) who are screaming for the torture and murder of Lauren Southern.

    Lauren Southern does not even support Mr Putin’s attack on the Ukraine – her “crime” was to regret the murder of this young woman and to denounce people for celebrating it.

    As for the “quotes” from the young lady being pushed on the internet (especially Twitter) – they are mostly either wildly out of context, or just made up.

    Twitter has done nothing – either about blatant “disinformation” (the pretence that the murdered young woman had opinions that she did not have), or about the endless calls to torture, mutilate and murder Lauren Southern.

    The police have also done nothing – in spite of incitement to murder being illegal. Meanwhile the churches of Canada burn – due to FAKE “mass graves” stories (which even Pope Francis did not contradict – on the contrary he went around apologising for the mythical mass graves).

    The message is very clear – it is fine to torture, mutilate and murder people, as long as the victims are conservatives.