Russia on Monday accused Ukraine over the assassination of the daughter of a leading hardliner, as Kyiv said nearly 9,000 of its soldiers had been killed since Moscow launched its invasion.
The FSB security services pointed the finger at Ukraine for Saturday’s shock car bombing in Moscow’s outskirts that killed Daria Dugina, the 29-year-old daughter of Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin, an outspoken advocate for the invasion of Ukraine.
“The crime was prepared and committed by Ukrainian special services,” the FSB said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies, adding that a bomb had been attached to the car driven by Dugina.
The brazen killing — and Moscow’s rapid accusation — marks a potentially destabilizing turn in the six-month-old conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the killing of the journalist and political commentator as a “vile crime” in a message of condolence to her family.
The FSB said the person responsible was a Ukrainian woman born in 1979 who had rented an apartment in the same building where Dugina lived.
After the car bombing, she had fled to EU member Estonia, it added.
Dugin, 60, is an outspoken Russian ultranationalist intellectual who enthusiastically backs Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as did his daughter. Russian media reports suggest Dugina had borrowed her father’s car at the last minute.
Over the weekend, Kyiv denied any link to the bombing.
– Ukrainian casualties –
Authorities on Monday meanwhile revealed the extent of the casualties among Ukrainian troops.
General Valeriy Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, said the country’s children needed particular attention “because their fathers have gone to the front and are maybe among the nearly 9,000 heroes who have been killed”.
Zaluzhny’s comments on the Ukrainian death toll, reported by Interfax-Ukraine news agency, were the first indication of Kyiv’s military losses since April.
On Wednesday, Ukraine will mark its independence day — and six months since Russian troops invaded.
After Ukrainian resistance thwarted an early Russian push on Kyiv, Moscow’s forces have focused on gaining ground in the country’s east.
The European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters in Spain that the bloc was considering military training for Ukrainian troops.
The shockwaves of the war are being felt around the world with soaring energy prices and food shortages.
– Buying time? –
A Ukraine presidential adviser said Russia is trying to coax Ukraine into fresh talks in order to buy time to regroup for a fresh offensive.
For weeks, the Kremlin has been “trying to convince Ukraine to enter into negotiations”, Mykhaylo Podolyak told AFP.
He suggested this was a ploy to “freeze the conflict while preserving the status quo in the occupied Ukrainian territories.”
Podolyak said Kyiv believes Moscow does not really want serious peace talks but “an operation pause for its army” ahead of a new offensive.
– Tense Independence Day –
In Spain, Borrell told reporters that EU defence ministers would next week discuss launching a major training operation for Ukrainian forces in nearby countries.
“It seems reasonable that a war that is lasting and looks set to last requires an effort not only in terms of supplies of material,” Borrell said.
All EU member states would have to agree to step up the training that several are already providing Ukraine under bilateral agreements.
EU defence ministers have a two-day meeting in Prague from next Monday.
With much of Europe preparing for fuel shortages as Moscow cuts back its deliveries to the West in response to sanctions, Bulgaria said it was seeking talks with Russia gas giant Gazprom.
The country is almost totally dependent on Russia for natural gas supplies.
“We obviously have to turn to them,” said Energy Minister Rosen Hristov.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky warned over the weekend that Russia might mark Ukraine’s Independence Day by launching a trial of Ukrainian soldiers captured during the siege of Mariupol.
“This will be the line beyond which no negotiations are possible,” he warned Sunday.
Soldiers from Ukraine’s Azov regiment captured by Russian forces after the battle for Mariupol said Monday they had been beaten in captivity.
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The soldiers, released as part of a prisoner exchange, told reporters they saw soldiers who were beaten until their bones were broken.
One ex-prisoner said he had observed cases of “serious torture”.
© Agence France-Presse