Hours after Simonyan’s walk through the park, another fierce pro-war propagandist, Daria Dugina, was killed by a car bomb in a Moscow suburb. The daughter of far-right nationalist Alexander Dugin died in a fiery explosion near one of the most exclusive enclaves for the capital’s powerful, wealthy elite.
Russia’s internal security service, the FSB, accused the Ukrainian security service of organizing the attack on Monday. Ukraine officials denied responsibility and some suggested that Russian security forces or other internal forces were to blame. There was also rampant speculation in Russia that Dugin was the intended target.
Denials and details aside, Dugina’s assassination shocked Russian TV hosts, journalists and other commentators serving propaganda that justified President Vladimir Putin’s invasion as a war against the Western world power and “Nazis” in Ukraine. The assassination immediately heightened a sense of vulnerability among Russia’s most elite and visible warmongers, who now realize that they may be targets and that the government may not be able to protect them.
It also raised the prospect of a serious escalation in the war as Putin comes under increasing pressure, including from Dugina’s grieving father, to hit Ukraine hard.
Saturday’s car bombings followed massive explosions in southern Russia and occupied Crimea this month, as well as mysterious fires in buildings and warehouses across the country. Suddenly, the war that seems a world away to many ordinary Russians has struck extremely close to home, a point that will be reinforced on Tuesday by a civil memorial ceremony for Dugina in central Moscow.
The bombings undermine the Kremlin’s implicit contract with the largely passive Russian population during Putin’s long tenure: that only he can maintain security, peace and economic stability. All three are now up for debate.
Russians have been shocked by videos of Dugina’s car exploding in a fireball, by images of crowds of holidaymakers fleeing occupied Crimea after the bombing of an air base there and by attacks on ammunition depots in southern Russia. They are also feeling the bite of sanctions as prices rise and real wages fall.
And while it was once Putin’s enemies and critics who feared being shot or poisoned, it is now the Russian leader’s most prominent public allies who are insecure and rely on private bodyguards and other protective measures against unseen and unpredictable threats.
“It should now be clear to everyone that there are no safe places,” tweeted pro-Kremlin war reporter Yury Kotenok, adding that the Russians could no longer ignore the war. “Moscow is now a frontline city.”
Simonyan, who in recent days has used her prominent RT cane to call for stronger military strikes on Ukraine in retaliation for attacks in Crimea, announced on Telegram on Sunday that she never goes anywhere without protection, even for a walk. in the park.
Simonyan said she thought it was “funny” before Dugina’s murder when her guard went to the ball. “And after two hours that turned out to be no. Not funny at all,” she wrote.
The Kremlin’s domestic narrative of peace and stability has now taken a back seat to Putin’s hitherto failed attempt to conquer Ukraine.
This battle, pro-Kremlin analysts warn, could take years of war, leading to protracted Western sanctions and protracted economic stagnation — all in pursuit of a goal valued by Putin and his circle of aggressive hardliners, but not so much by ordinary citizens.
A former opposition MP, Ilya Ponomarev, said an underground Russian guerrilla group claimed responsibility for Dugina’s murder, although neither he nor the National Republican Army provided evidence.
Ponomarev told Ukrainian television that the group had informed him in advance that it was targeting Dugin and his daughter. On Monday, he insisted that the Ukrainian woman named as a suspect by the FSB was not involved.
Pro-Kremlin journalists and Russian nationalists started blaming Ukraine even before the FSB announcement. They called for a massive escalation of attacks, with some demanding that Russia bomb every government building in Ukraine.
On Monday, state television host Olesya Loseva called the murder of Dugina “a signal to all of us.”
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“Some will say that this is indicative of the defeat of the Ukronazis on the battlefield,” Tigran Keosayan, a pro-Kremlin film director and Simonyan’s husband, told Telegram. “Others will say a terrorist attack in the capital is again crossing the red lines.”
In a complaint underscoring that the Russian war has not gone according to plan, Keosayan called for the destruction of the offices of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Bankova Street in Kiev.
“I don’t understand why there are still buildings on Bankova Street,” he wrote, repeating a frequent complaint from aggressive figures that Russia needs to scale up its brutal shock tactics.
Russian journalist Alexander Pelevin called for “the complete destruction of the reptile”, referring to the Ukrainian government.
In her Telegram post, Simonyan said she had relied on constant protection since April, when the FSB announced it had foiled a plot against another prominent propagandist, Vladimir Solovyov.
The agency posted a video of the arrest of six men, one with tied hands, who said they had orders from Ukraine to kill Solovyov “as soon as possible”. In the apartment where the FSB said the arrests took place, the video showed a photo of Adolf Hitler, neo-Nazi literature, a red T-shirt with a swastika, guns, a blonde wig and three Sims DVDs. It caused waves on Russian state television, but was mocked by global observers as if the alleged plot had been staged.
Pro-Kremlin war correspondent Semyon Pegov, whose WarGonzo Telegram channel has more than a million followers, warned Sunday that the war would be long because it changed “the very essence of history”.
“At this point, we should all realize in mind and heart how serious this is for all of us,” he said in a series of posts about Saturday’s murder. The car bombings showed that Russia is facing “a very different level of terrorist danger,” he wrote.
Pegov claimed without evidence that Ukrainian “cells” were active in Moscow, that at least two recent terrorist attacks had been foiled, and that there were likely more.
“We have no moral right to say who exactly they were targeting, but we assure you that the terrorists have gone far enough,” he wrote. One plot, he claimed, involved smuggled improvised bombs, which he believed were evidence of traitors within the system.
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Amid questions about who orchestrated Dugina’s murder, the ire of pro-Kremlin figures suggested her death would have far-reaching consequences.
Liberal journalist Yulia Latynina of Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper that had to close in March, prediction a wave of arrests and repression similar to the Soviet crackdown of the 1930s known as the Great Terror.
Analyst Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of think tank R.Politik, said the assassination could increase pressure on Putin to respond with a tougher approach to the war. The Kremlin would struggle to control increasing confrontation and violence between rival political camps in Russia, Stanovaya predicted in a Telegram message.
“Putin’s future decisions may look weak and less legitimate to a shocked conservative segment of the elite and society,” Stanovaya wrote. “The murder of Dugina creates the conditions in which a political demand for a more radicalized political leadership than Putin is formed. And the Kremlin will not be able to comply.”