The Russian secret services have not hesitated to point out to the Ukrainian authorities that they were behind the murder in Moscow of the ultra-nationalist political scientist Daria Dugina. The person accused by the Kremlin of having carried out the bomb attack on the car in which the victim was traveling is a 43-year-old Ukrainian woman. Several photographs of this person, Natalia Vovk, and also an alleged identification document of hers as a member of the Ukrainian National Guard, the military division of the Ministry of the Interior, and the Azov regiment, were released in the Russian media and social accounts on Monday. The version of the events that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has outlined sows multiple suspicions accompanied by an avalanche of propaganda. For the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior, the Kremlin seeks to exacerbate Russian sentiments with false information about a Ukraine in the hands of extremists and terrorists.
Vovk’s personal data was first made public on an anonymous website, Nemesis, dedicated to leaking information from the Ukrainian military. Nemesis pointed to Vovk as a member of the Azov Regiment, a far-right paramilitary group, currently under the command of the National Guard. Both representatives of Azov and the National Guard have denied that this person was part of the regiment. The Azov regiment, fundamentally ultranationalist, is one of the main resources of Russian propaganda to portray Ukraine as a country dominated by fascist hordes. A spokesman for the National Guard told EL PAÍS that they will check if the identity document is authentic. From the State Attorney General’s Office, they assured the Pravda newspaper that it could be that this document was stolen by the invaders in Mariupol, a city occupied by Russia and where the military Vovk would presumably come from.
The general prosecutor’s office also indicated that the word “married” had been added in pencil to the document, something unusual in the Ukrainian bureaucracy, according to these sources, to specify that the surname with which Vovk appears on the card, Shaban, is that of birth. In another statement, the National Guard added that they only had evidence of a Ukrainian citizen Natalia Shaban, without specifying more.
The National Guard has ruled out that this person was a member of the Azov regiment. According to the card, Vovk would have served in the military unit 3057, which is the identification number of this regiment. At a press conference on Monday, a soldier from Azov under the pseudonym Wikipedia assured that this person had not fought in his unit. This soldier did concede that it could be that this person was part of the National Guard team that his regiment has, but in administrative tasks. Wikipedia noted that in the passport photo of the document, Vovk would appear in the uniform of the National Guard, clothing that Azov does not wear.
The Nemesis website released Vovk’s personal contact numbers. EL PAÍS has confirmed that these data exist and coincide with those of the person whom Moscow accuses of being behind Dugina’s death. The office of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday denied any link to Dugina’s death. “We are not a criminal state, as Russia is, and we are definitely not a terrorist state,” said Zelensky adviser Mikhailo Podoliak. Dugina is the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a far-right philosopher and one of the main ideologues of Russian imperialism who has defended the annexation of Ukraine by violent means. It is not clear whether the attack was directed at Dugina or her father.
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The FSB version of events details that Vovk arrived in Russia in July accompanied by her 12-year-old daughter. She rented an apartment in the same building as Dugina and, after murdering her, she left the country with her vehicle for Estonia, first changing the license plate of her car. The Russian state agency Ria Novosti published a video in which Vovk would be identified in her vehicle at the border, also in the building’s goal.
Several photos of Vovk taken from Instagram by pro-Russian accounts show her with her daughter but also with her husband. The image of this man coincides with that of a person included in the Myrotvorets website, a Ukrainian project for leaking the personal data of thousands of Russian soldiers and people accused of being part of Russian propaganda. The Myrotvorets file was spread on the internet by Ukrainian propaganda accounts. This man would be a Ukrainian citizen that Myrotvorets points to as a pro-Russian agent and organizer of the referendum on the separation of the Donetsk region in 2014. Anton Gerashchenko, co-founder of Myrotvorets and advisor to the Ministry of the Interior, told EL PAÍS that he does not know if this man is Vovk’s husband.
Vovk would be a native of Mariupol, a coastal municipality on the Sea of Azov that was devastated after three months of Russian siege. The Azov regiment led the Ukrainian Numantine resistance in this city, until the last defenders surrendered last May. Russia finalizes for the next few days a propaganda trial in Mariupol against prisoners of war from Azov and from the 36th Naval Infantry Brigade still in captivity. More than 50 Mariupol prisoners of war died on July 28 in a Russian internment center in Donetsk province. Part of them were Azov soldiers. The Ukrainian government accuses Moscow of his murder and the United Nations is preparing an observer mission to find out what happened.
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