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The explosion of the car of the daughter of ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dougin, Sunday near Moscow, has repercussions as far as the Kremlin. Moscow attributes this attack to Ukraine, which kyiv denies. The assassination puts Vladimir Poutine under pressure, in particular on behalf of most warmongers, but not only.
The deadly explosion took place not far from Moscow. The bomb placed under the Toyota Land Cruiser driven by Daria Douguina exploded on Sunday August 21 while it was driving on the highway about fifty kilometers west of the Russian capital.
The death of Daria Dougina, daughter of the ultranationalist ideologue Alexandre Douguine, caused a media and political shock wave in Russia. The circumstances of the explosion are reminiscent of the wave of car bombings in Moscow in the 1990s.
Avalanche of theories about the perpetrators of the attack
The attack also took place not far from Rublevka, the western suburbs of Moscow “where there are many prestigious villas belonging to the Moscow elite”, underlines Luke March, specialist in Russian politics at the University of Edinburgh.
The victim, a 29-year-old journalist and political scientist, was also a regular on television sets where she staunchly defended the invasion of Ukraine and called for an intensification of the conflict.
But above all, his father remains an influential thinker in the Russian ultranationalist sphere and was, in the early 2010s, described as one of Vladimir Putin’s “eminences grises”. For those close to this extremist, quoted by the Russian press agencies, it was he who was the main target of the attack. Alexander Dougin indeed decided only at the last minute to take a separate car from his daughter to return to Moscow.
The attack also gave rise to an avalanche of assumptions as to the perpetrators of this attack. “Most Russian commentators accuse Ukraine of being behind this attack, without being able to explain how kyiv would have managed to organize such an operation in the heart of Russia”, notes Mark Galeotti, political scientist specializing in Russia, in a column published by the website of the British weekly The Spectator. An accusation disputed Monday by kyiv.
Other suspects that it could be a set up by the Russian security services or a mafia crime. Car bombings in the 1990s were indeed a specialty of the Russian mafia.
Ultranationalists more visible?
“We may never know who is behind this murder,” said Stephen Hall, Russia specialist at the University of Bath (south-west England). On the other hand, there is no doubt, for him, that this death will have political consequences for Vladimir Putin and his regime.
First, it could “put Alexander Dougin back in the media spotlight in Russia,” said Jenny Mathers, Russia specialist at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales. This extremist ideologue “had been largely forgotten by Russian general opinion, and it has been almost ten years since he no longer has any direct influence on Russian politics”, notes Stephen Hall.
The media interest caused by the attack will perhaps give a second life to his “eurasist” theses – a vision of the world according to which the Russian societal model must be imposed on Asia and Europe. If he is again a regular guest on Russian television, “this could influence some listeners and continue to swell the ranks of the far right,” said Jenny Mathers.
Vladimir Putin could then find himself “under pressure from the ultranationalist camp”, writes the daily Le Monde. What politically weaken the master of the Kremlin? “This fringe of the Russian political spectrum will be up in arms repeating over and over again that Vladimir Putin is not doing anything to make Russia great again”, notes Stephen Hall.
It’s not new. Russian ultranationalists have been saying the same thing since the Russian army struggled to gain ground in Ukraine after the failed siege of kyiv. But the death of Daria Douguina is likely to amplify the scope of their speech.
The danger, for some, is that this will push Vladimir Putin to further intensify the Russian war effort in Ukraine and make it even more deadly. Especially for the civilian population, underlines the New York Times.
Towards a new hardening of the regime
But that would be lending a great deal of influence to the Russian ultranationalists. “It’s a very disorganized group, weak in numbers and in influence”, sums up Ilya Matveev, a Russian political scientist. They have no connection with Vladimir Putin and “the Kremlin essentially uses them to play the propagandists of Russian policy while ignoring their demands”, adds Luke March.
This does not mean, however, that the regime can ignore the attack. Rather, the threat would come from public opinion and from the “siloviki” – members of the intelligence community – believed to be Vladimir Putin’s close guard. “That such an attack could have taken place so close to Moscow is of the worst effect for power and may give the impression that the Kremlin does not control the situation as well as it claims,” said Stephen Hall.
And if Vladimir Putin fails to impose order, some of the “siloviki” may wonder whether to continue to put on this aging political horse. “This does not mean that there will be a coup overnight to get rid of Vladimir Putin, but more likely that there is a risk of a hardening of the regime”, analyzes Luke March.
The Kremlin will want to give gauges to the security apparatus. In other words, “the most probable is that we must expect an accentuation of the repression against all that can resemble a form of opposition to the regime or to the war”, discovered Jenny Mathers.