With Assassination of Dariya Dugina, Russian-Ukrainian War Enters a Chilling New Phase

The struggle could devolve into an internal Russian conflict.

Via Wikimedia Commons
The assassination in 1881 of Tsar Alexander II. He was killed by the world’s first modern terrorist organization. Via Wikimedia Commons

The Russian-Ukrainian war has reached a chilling turning point with the release on Telegram of a statement by the “National Republican Army,” a secret Russian resistance group claiming that they are responsible for the killing of Dariya Dugina, the daughter of an ultra-nationalist writer and a pro-war propagandist, who was blown up in her car Sunday outside of Moscow. 

The existence of the National Republican Army was confirmed at Kyiv by Ilya Ponomariev, who is the only Russian deputy to vote against the annexation of Crimea, and who is in contact with the group. The group also issued a manifesto in which it said it was declaring war on the Russian military machine and vowed that President Putin would be “overthrown and destroyed.”

A group of this kind could turn the war into an internal Russian conflict. The Russian authorities appreciate the danger. Russian propagandists, without evidence, have blamed the attacks on Kyiv and demanded strikes against Ukrainian decision making centers. The official agency RIA Novosti reported, falsely, that Mr. Ponomariev said that Dugina was killed by Ukrainian nationalists when, in fact, Mr. Ponomariev stressed that the National Republican Army is Russian. 

The possibility of Russian terrorism directed against the Putin regime has always shadowed Mr. Putin’s war against Ukraine. The war is costing thousands of lives and shows no sign of ending. Wartime censorship and police repression have cut off peaceful means of expressing dissent. There is overwhelming evidence that Mr. Putin himself came to power in 1999 as the result of an act of terror, the bombing of Russian apartment buildings that cost 300 lives and provided a pretext for an invasion of the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

There is also a tradition of terrorism in Russia. The “People’s Will,” which eventually succeeded in 1881 in assassinating Tsar Alexander II, who had emancipated the serfs, was the world’s first modern terrorist organization. It espoused democratic values — “complete freedom of conscience, speech, press, assembly and electoral agitation” — but came to the conclusion that terrorism was the only way to overthrow a repressive regime. 

Nothing is known about the National Republican Army besides its statement and the fact that it appears to have been involved in the arson of army recruiting stations in various parts of Russia. The language of its statement is eerily reminiscent of the statements of the People’s Will some 150 years ago. It vows support for a society in which power “will belong to the people and in which the people will choose their own leaders and organize their lives.” 

The National Republican Army described Mr. Putin as a usurper and military criminal who unleashed a fratricidal war between Slavic peoples and guarantees “poverty and coffins for some, palaces for others.” It said that it had not forgotten the 1999 apartment bombings and called on Russian soldiers not to fire on their brothers from other countries. 

It is possible that the members of this organization will be uncovered and quickly repressed. But as Russian casualties in Ukraine continue to mount, internal Russian resistance could spread. Before the invasion, the leader of a group of retired army and security officers, General Leonid Ivashov, said the planned invasion would lead to the destruction of Russia. He said it was the attempt of a corrupt regime to hold on to power. He called on Mr. Putin to resign. 

Dugina in a television interview said that the photos of the civilian victims of mass murder by Russian troops at Bucha in Ukraine were faked. Her father, Alexander Dugin, called for the killing of Ukrainians. They were treated by the Russian group as legitimate targets which in this way indicated that it will define contributors to the war machine broadly. 

The war has never evoked much enthusiasm among Russians and many would prefer to ignore it. If an underground group continues to attack targets in Russia, however, ignoring the war may cease to be an option. Such attacks could destabilize the regime. They could also lead the regime to launch a reign of terror.

In the world of the Putin regime, there is another possibility —  that the National Republican Army is a creation of Russian intelligence organized to justify mass repression inside Russia. One thing appears certain. With the killing of Russian nationalist Dariya Dugina by anti-Putin Russians, Russia’s war on Ukraine has entered a new phase. 

The New York Sun

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