A Russian exile in Ukraine claims to have info on the car bomb that killed a top Putin ally’s daughter
In 2014, Moscow-born Ilya Vladimirovich Ponomarev was the only member of the Duma, the Russian parliament, to vote against Russia’s annexation of Crimea — a vote that infuriated many allies of President Vladimir Putin. Ponomarev was subsequently impeached and fled Russia for Ukraine, where he obtained citizenship in 2019.
These days, the Kyiv-based Ponomarev, now 47, is an outspoken critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And he is claiming to be in touch with an anti-Putin group in Russia called the National Republican Army, which he says is claiming responsibility for the recent car bombing that killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of Alexander Dugin — a major Putin ally and a cheerleader for the invasion of Ukraine. Ponomarev, according to Daily Beast reporter Anna Nemtsova, read a statement from the National Republican Army on February Morning, the Kyiv-based television channel he founded in early 2022.
Interviewed by the Daily Beast, Ponomarev told that publication, “The activists chose a sacred figure of Russian fascism, and that’s not up to me to criticize the target of their deed…. We have been receiving videos and text messages from the Russian rebels about their actions nearly every day. They throw Molotov cocktails at military draft offices, blow up railroads, pop tires of cars with Russian pro-war symbols and attack activists who were collecting money for the war.”
The Beast also interviewed Aleksey Baranovsky, a Ponomarev colleague at February Morning. Baranovsky said of the National Republican Army and the bombing that killed Dugina, “The initiative came from the group. They acted absolutely autonomously. We do not call them terrorists, they are an army of rebels…. (Ponomarev) read the statement that we had received and commented on it.”
But Moscow-based Alexander Verkhovsky, considered an authority on anti-Putin activist groups in Russia, doesn’t believe that the National Republican Army is as large as Ponomarev says it is.
Verkhovsky told the Beast, “Of course, there are anti-war partisan groups in Russia. They throw Molotov cocktails, blow things up. But if they were united in some big army, they would have had at least some channel independent from Ponomarev on Telegram. But let’s see what else they do.”
Ukrainian politician Tetiana Popova is skeptical about Ponomarev’s claims as well, telling the Beast, “We’ve known Ponomarev for many years, as a businessman mostly — we think that he might genuinely wish to see an armed rebel movement in Russia, but his source can easily be a Russian Federal Security Service, and the NRA could be their idea. Besides, we do not understand why Dugin’s family was chosen for a target. It is just a finger, not the hand of those fighting the war against Ukraine.”
But Gennady Gudkov, a Putin critic and Ponomarev ally who formerly served in the Duma, believes that Ponomarev’s claims about the National Republican Army and the bombing that killed Dugina are credible.
Gudhov told the Beast, “I could give you a guarantee that Ponomarev is not crazy and that he is not an agent of the Russian Federal Security Service, though there might be a power playing him in their interest…. I can also confirm that there are dozens of Russian exiles in Ukraine fighting the war against Putin’s army and that Ponomarev knows these guys well.”
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