Darya Dugina, a 29-year-old commentator with a nationalist Russian TV channel, died when a remotely controlled explosive device planted in her SUV blew up on Saturday night as she was driving on the outskirts of Moscow, ripping the vehicle apart and killing her on the spot, authorities said.
Her father, Alexander Dugin, a philosopher, writer and political theorist who ardently supports Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine, was widely believed to be the intended target.
Russian media quoted witnesses as saying that the SUV belonged to Dugin and that he had decided at the last minute to travel in another vehicle.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, the main successor to the KGB, said Dugina’s killing was “prepared and perpetrated by the Ukrainian special services.”
The FSB said a Ukrainian citizen, Natalya Vovk, carried out the killing and then fled to Estonia.
In Estonia, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement carried by the Baltic News Services that it “has not received any requests or inquiries from the Russian authorities on this topic.”
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 that Dugin and his daughter attended just before the killing.
The agency released video of the suspect from surveillance cameras at the border crossings and at the entrance to the Moscow apartment building.
The FSB said Vovk used a licence plate for Ukraine’s Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region to enter Russia and a Kazakhstan plate in Moscow before switching to a Ukrainian one to cross into Estonia.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak denied any Ukrainian involvement in the bombing. In a tweet, he dismissed the FSB claims as fiction, casting them as part of infighting between Russian security agencies.
In a letter extending condolences to Dugin and his wife, Putin denounced the “cruel and treacherous” killing and added that Dugina “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.
Russian Foreign Minisry spokeswoman Maria Zakharov said Dugina’s killing reflected Kyiv’s reliance on “terrorism as an instrument of its criminal ideology.”
Media personalities in Moscow on Monday called for strikes on Kyiv in response to the murder of Darya Dugin.
Zelenskyy warning for Independence Day
Meanwhile, events to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day on Wednesday have been banned in the country’s capital, Kyiv, and second-largest city, Kharkiv, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials warn that Russia may carry out missile strikes.
Zelenskyy said that Russia might be planning “particularly ugly” attacks to coincide with the occasion, which will mark 31 years since Ukraine broke its ties with the Soviet Union and as the war nears its six-month milestone.
“We must all be aware that this week Russia could try to do something particularly ugly, something particularly vicious,” Zelensky said in a video message.
General says 9000 Ukrainian troops killed
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already killed some 9000 Ukrainian soldiers since it began nearly six months ago, a general said, and the fighting showed no signs that the war is abating.
At a veteran’s event, Ukraine’s military chief, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said many of Ukraine’s children need to be taken care of because “their father went to the front line and, perhaps, is one of those almost 9000 heroes who died.”
The UN says 5587 civilians have been killed and 7890 wounded in the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24, although the estimate is likely an undercount. The UN children’s agency said on Monday that at least 972 Ukrainian children have been killed or injured since Russia invaded.