On August 23, the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., accused U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price of “Russophobia” regarding the car bombing that killed nationalist provocateur Darya Dugina.
The embassy said in a Telegram post that the U.S. “took advantage” of the assassination to “give the public an impression that the Russian authorities are responsible for the death of their own citizen and the true patriot of Russia.”
The post went on:
“We are deeply outraged that the US authorities took advantage of this terrible tragedy to once again spread a set of irresponsible Russophobic statements.
“In particular, Ned Price, State Department spokesperson, took the liberty to draw a similarity between what had happened and some ‘false flag operations’ that the Russian Federation had allegedly carried out many times.”
That is false. In fact, the embassy’s post came in response to an August 22 State Department press briefing at which Price said the United States “unequivocally condemn[s] the targeting of civilians” anywhere. Price never suggested the bombing was a “false flag” operation.
Darya Dugina, 29, was an ultra-nationalist activist and TV host who repeatedly called for the elimination of Ukrainian identity and the full integration of Ukraine into Russia. She was killed in the car bombing outside Moscow on August 20.
Some speculated the bomb was meant for Dugina’s father, ideologist Aleksander Dugin, a self-professed "Eurasianist" who is said to have influenced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s imperial aspirations. Dugin has promoted the idea of restoring the “Derzhava” – a “mighty Russia” of imperial glory. That would include annexing territories of the former Soviet Union, starting with Ukraine.
Here is an excerpt from Price’s comments at the August 22 briefing concerning Darya Dugina’s death:
QUESTION: Thanks. Does the U.S. have an assessment of who was behind the car bombing that killed Darya Dugina in Moscow?
MR PRICE: So, I don’t have anything to share beyond what you have all heard publicly, and that is that Ukraine has denied any involvement in the attack on this individual. We unequivocally condemn the targeting of civilians. We condemn the targeting of civilians, whether that’s in Kyiv, whether that’s in Bucha, whether that’s in Kharkiv, whether that’s in Kramatorsk, whether that’s in Mariupol, or whether that’s in Moscow. That principle applies around the world.
QUESTION: So, the U.S. is confident that Ukraine was not behind this and rejects Moscow’s accusations that it was?
MR PRICE: I have no doubt that the Russians will investigate this. I also have no doubt that the Russians will put forward certain conclusions. All I can say from here is that Ukraine has denied any involvement, and for our part we condemn the intentional targeting of civilians anywhere.
The Russian Embassy did not specify what “false flag” operations Russia has supposedly been accused of carrying out “many times.” But in condemning the targeting of civilians Bucha, Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and Mariupol, Price obliquely referenced widely reported accusations that Russian troops variously targeted, executed, raped and bombed civilians in those locations – alleged war crimes that the Kremlin routinely denies.
The FSB claimed a Ukrainian woman and her teenage daughter were at a public rally that Dugina and her father attended prior to the blast. The FSB said the woman had stalked Dugina for days and left Russia immediately after the bombing.
Meantime, Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian State Duma deputy and adviser to former President Dmitry Medvedev, claimed in an interview with the independent Russian news outlet Meduza that an underground Russian partisan movement, the National Republican Army, was responsible for Dugina’s death.
Ponomarev offered little proof. He was the only Duma deputy to vote against Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Ponomarev was removed from the Duma and barred from returning to Russia after a foreign trip. He has been a Ukrainian citizen since 2019 and financially supports an anti-Putin, Russian-language news site.
Some Russia watchers expressed doubt about both the FSB’s and Ponomarev’s claims.
Exiled Russian journalist Yulia Latynina noted that Dugin had criticized the Kremlin on Telegram just hours before his daughter was killed and suggested the car bomb could have been an “inside job" as punishment.
In his Telegram post, Dugin wrote that time was running out for a Russian victory in Ukraine and that in order to succeed, Russia needs “substantial — drastic — internal changes,” including “[s]tructural, ideological, personnel-related, institutional, strategic…”
“I can understand that the authorities became accustomed to ruling the way they have ruled — more or less effectively — for 22 years,” Dugin wrote. “But that period is in the past … Let the old regime bury its dead. A new Russian time is coming. Inexorably.”