Russia blames Ukraine for deadly Moscow blast

The murder of journalist Darya Dugina was committed by a Ukrainian national, the Federal Security Service claims

The car bombing outside Moscow on Saturday night, which took the life of journalist Darya Dugina, was orchestrated and carried out by Ukrainian secret services, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has said.

Dugina was killed while returning from a conservative family festival held in Moscow Region. She was the daughter of anti-Western author and political commentator Aleksandr Dugin. Like her father, she was known for her vocal support of the Russian military operation in Ukraine.

In a statement on Monday, the FSB said that Ukrainian national Natalya Vovk, born in 1979, carried out the bombing.

According to the FSB, Vovk arrived in Russia with her teenage daughter on July 23 and rented an apartment in the building in Moscow where the victim also lived.

Vovk and her daughter attended the ‘Tradition’ festival on Saturday, where Dugin was giving a lecture and his daughter was present, the FSB said.

Investigators stated earlier that a bomb was planted under the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado SUV Dugina used to leave the event. According to the FSB, Vovk detonated the bomb remotely, killing Dugina as she was driving on a highway. She then left with her daughter for Estonia on Sunday.

The FSB added that Vovk used a car with a license plate from the Donetsk People’s Republic when entering Russia, but replaced it with a Kazakhstan license plate when driving in Moscow, and a Ukrainian plate when crossing into Estonia.

An ID card allegedly owned by Vovk was first published online in April. The document with a photo of a woman in uniform describes her as a member of Ukraine’s National Guard.

The authenticity of the ID card has not been confirmed.

According to unconfirmed reports, she serves in the Azov Battalion, a unit of the National Guard, whose ranks include fighters with openly nationalist and neo-Nazi views.

In the document purportedly belonging to Vovk, she is listed as Natalya Shaban. According to the FSB, Shaban was the last name Vovk’s daughter used when entering Russia in July.

According to the FSB’s investigation, Vovk entered Russia in July before situating herself in the same apartment building that Dugina resided in. Vovk would then follow Dugina to the festival in which the explosive device that led to her death was planted. Vovk, who was accompanied by her 12-year old daughter, fled to Estonia following the assassination, according to Russian intelligence. Following her identification, Russian law enforcement agencies declared their intent to seek her extradition.

Given the reports of Vovk’s escape to Estonia, the location of the alleged assassin places Russia in a conflict against a NATO member state even more directly than the proxy war in Ukraine has. In 2016, the European Court of Justice set precedent which would justify any extradition request for Vovk by Russia. The case law that set that standard occurred when the court found that any member state of the European Union is obligated to accommodate an extradition request of any third-party non-member state even if the subject of the request is not a citizen of the EU nation itself. This decision followed a case in which Russia requested to have Estonian national Aleksei Petruhhin extradited from Latvia for drug trafficking offenses.

The legal framework set by the European Court of Justice will place Estonia in a crucible if Vovk has indeed found safe haven in the Baltic state. In addition to joining the EU in 2004, Estonia joined NATO that same year. The potential conflict arising between Estonia and the Russian Federation has the potential to trigger Article 5 of the NATO Charter which puts forth a collective defense clause meaning that any military engagement with a NATO member state constitutes action taken against the entire trans-Atlantic body whether it occurs as far east as Tallinn or as far west as Hawai’i.

Article 5 has been constantly dangled before Russia as a Sword of Damicles of sorts designed to dissuade any escalation of the Ukrainian conflict. The veiled threat was most recently invoked in response to Russian attack on Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and increased military incursions by Ukrainian military forces into Crimea. “Any deliberate damage causing potential radiation leak to a Ukrainian nuclear reactor would be a breach of NATO’s Article 5,” said UK MP Tobias Ellwood. His sentiments were echoed by US Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R – IL) who followed Ellwood’s declaration by stating “This really isn’t even up for debate; any leak will kill people in NATO countries, that’s an automatic article 5[.]” just hours before Dugina’s assassination.

While Article 5 of the NATO Charter has been used to threaten Russia from intensifying any aggression, the officials who have constantly cited the collective defense policy have done so under the pretense of preventing any further aggression. The assassination of Darya Dugina is a drastically different circumstance as Russia will surely perceive any potential action it takes to have Vovk extradited from Estonia as entirely justified and as a response to the murder, not an offensive attack against a NATO member state. As the manhunt for Vovk ensures, Europe again finds itself in the political crucible that enveloped the continent following Gravrilo Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. However, in this historical iteration, it is the European central powers who find themselves in a position of being the aggressor that could provoke a catastrophic conflict with Russia.

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