Russia critics question FSB's 2-day investigation into Putin ally's death, saying murders of dissidents 15 years ago are still unresolved
Russia blamed Ukraine for the death of a Putin ally's daughter and teased retaliatory attacks.
Ukraine denies involvement and Russia's speedy, two-day investigation prompted skepticism.
Russia critics and experts pointed to years-old killings of Putin critics that still haven't been solved.
Two days after the car-bomb death of a Russian nationalist's daughter, Russia's security service said it had solved the case and identified Ukraine as the culprit.
The fast turnaround is hard to believe, say those who have followed Russia's long-running and fruitless investigations into the deaths of President Vladimir Putin's critics.
"It's crazy. I can't think of any investigation, any security service, police force that is that effective straight away," Stephen Hall, an assistant professor who focuses on Russia at the UK's University of Bath, told Insider.
He said he believes Russia's security service, the FSB, was told to find a way to connect the attack to Ukraine, and the speed with which some Putin allies, including a foreign ministry spokeswoman, rushed to blame Ukraine backs that up.
"It's clear that [the FSB] were told they had to link it to the Ukrainians. We saw this almost immediately."
Darya Dugina, the daughter of influential nationalist Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, was killed on Saturday. Dugin was said to have influenced Putin, and Dugina had supported the president's thinking and invasion of Ukraine.
Some Putin allies immediately rushed to blame Ukraine, calling for more attacks on Kyiv. Ukraine denied — and continues to deny — and involvement, but Russia's reaction suggests her death could be used to escalate its invasion.
On Monday, the FSB said it had found who executed the killing at Ukraine's behest: A Ukrainian woman travelling with her 12-year-old daughter in a Mini Cooper car while changing her number plates.
Investigators outside Russia have not identified the culprit, and a family friend said on Saturday that Dugina's father may have been the real target.
Theories range from Ukrainian involvement to an underground anti-Putin movement in Russia, to a false-flag attack orchestrated by Russia to increase anti-Ukraine sentiment.
But the speed of the FSB's conclusion — two days — has prompted skepticism.
Doubts over the investigation
Olexander Scherba, Ukraine's former ambassador to Austria, told Insider that the two-day-long investigation stood out when compared to the killings of Putin agents in Ukraine, where Russia never said who was responsible.
"Why was this one investigated so amazingly fast? It sounds very strange to me," he said.
He echoed the Ukrainian government's reasoning behind its denial of involvement: He said Dugina and her father are little-known figures in Ukraine, and that there are many more Russian thinkers whose deaths might give Ukrainians a bigger morale boost.
Hall said the FSB's explanation — which involves the Ukrainian woman's being able to enter Russia and escape after the attack — sounded "bizarre" and made the FSB look incompetent.
"It's all very strange and it certainly does make the FSB look bad. They haven't really thought their story through."
Other cases left unresolved
The independent Russian news website Holod Media created a graphic that compared how long it took the FSB to apparently solve Dugina's death, to how many days it had been since the deaths of various Putin critics whose killers had not been found.
—Холод (@holodmedia) August 22, 2022
Among those who shared the graphic was Kira Yarmysh, spokeswoman for the jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. She called it a "very revealing picture."
The people on the graphic listed are:
Boris Nemtsov, a prominent Russian politician who opposed Putin's government and who was assassinated in 2015. Five men were arrested but his killers were never identified, and a recent media investigation found that he was trailed by a political assassination team.
Natalia Estemirova, a Russian human-rights worker and journalist who was murdered in 2009. The European Court of Human Rights found in 2021 that Russia did not properly investigate her death.
Anna Politkovskaya, a critical Russian journalist who was assassinated in her apartment building in 2006. People were arrested for the death, but no one has been found guilty of organizing the killing. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2018 that Russia "failed to look properly into who commissioned the crime."
Hall, the professor, said the uncertainty over those deaths made the FSB's apparently quick investigation seem more surprising.
"The speed with which the FSB linked it to the Ukrainian security service, and gave us a name and a backstory — however incomprehensible — was very surprising."
"Again, I think it's more to do with the fact that [the FSB] were told they need to find a way to link it to Ukraine."
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