Suspected car bomb kills daughter of high-profile Putin ally
The daughter of a Russian political philosopher often referred to as ‘Putin’s brain’ was killed in a car bomb explosion over the weekend. Though Ukraine says it wasn’t responsible, there are concerns the incident could inflame violence in the region.
Russia’s top counterintelligence agency on Monday blamed Ukrainian spy services for organizing the killing of a leading Russian nationalist in a car bombing just outside Moscow.
Darya Dugina, the 29-year-old daughter of Alexander Dugin, a philosopher, writer and political theorist whom some in the West described as “Putin’s brain,” died when an explosive planted in her SUV exploded as she was driving Saturday night.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the main KGB successor agency, said that Dugina’s killing had been “prepared and perpetrated by the Ukrainian special services.”
In a letter expressing condolences to Dugin and his wife that was released by the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the “cruel and treacherous” killing of Dugina, hailing her as a “bright, talented person with a real Russian heart — kind, loving, responsive and open.”
Putin added that Dugina has “honestly served people and the Fatherland, proving what it means to be a patriot of Russia with her deeds.” He posthumously awarded Dugina the Order of Courage, one of Russia’s highest medals.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak denied any Ukrainian involvement in the killing.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday the United States unequivocally condemns the intentional targeting of civilians anywhere, when asked about the killing of Dugina.
Speaking at a daily press briefing, Price declined to say whether Washington knew who was behind the attack but said there was no doubt that Russia would put forward “certain conclusions.”
In its statement Monday, the FSB accused a Ukrainian citizen, Natalya Vovk, of perpetrating the killing and then fleeing from Russia to Estonia.
Suspect left for Estonia, Russia says
The FSB said Vovk arrived in Russia in July with her 12-year-old daughter and rented an apartment in the building where Dugina lived in order to shadow her. It said that Vovk and her daughter were at a nationalist festival, which Alexander Dugin and his daughter attended just before the killing.
The agency said that Vovk and her daughter left Russia for Estonia after Dugina’s killing, using a different vehicle licence plate on their way out of the country.
In a statement released by a close associate, Dugin described his daughter as a “rising star” who was “treacherously killed by enemies of Russia.”
“Our hearts are longing not just for revenge and retaliation, it would be too petty, not in Russia style,” Dugin wrote. “We need only victory.”
Dugin has been a prominent proponent of the “Russian world” concept, a spiritual and political ideology that emphasizes traditional values, the restoration of Russia’s global clout and the unity of all ethnic Russians throughout the world. He has vehemently supported Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and urged the Kremlin to step up its operations there.
The explosion took place as Dugina was returning from a cultural festival she had attended with her father. Russian media reports cited witnesses as saying the SUV belonged to Dugin and that he had decided at the last minute to travel in another vehicle.
The car bombing, unusual for Moscow since the turbulent 1990s, is likely to aggravate tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
On Sunday, Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed separatist Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine’s east, quickly blamed the blast on “terrorists of the Ukrainian regime, trying to kill Alexander Dugin.”
While Dugin’s exact ties to Putin are unclear, the Kremlin frequently echoes rhetoric from his writings and appearances on Russian state television. He helped popularize the “Novorossiya,” or “New Russia” concept that Russia used to justify the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its support of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst, argued that the perpetrators of Dugina’s killing might have hoped to encourage a split between those in the Russian elite who advocate a political compromise to end the hostilities in Ukraine and proponents of even tougher military action.
Father, daughter hit by sanctions
Dugin, who has been slapped with U.S. and European Union sanctions, has promoted Russia as a country of piety, traditional values and authoritarian leadership, and spoken with disdain about Western liberal values.
His daughter expressed similar views and had appeared as a commentator on nationalist TV channel Tsargrad, where Dugin had served as chief editor.
Dugina herself was sanctioned by the United States in March for her work as chief editor of United World International, a website that the U.S. described as a disinformation source. The sanctions announcement cited a United World article this year that contended Ukraine would “perish” if it were admitted to NATO.
In an appearance on Russian television just Thursday, Dugina said, “People in the West are living in a dream, in a dream given to them by global hegemony.” She called America “a zombie society” in which people opposed Russia but couldn’t find it on a map.