September 26, 2022

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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.

Daria 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.”

On Sunday, Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak denied any Ukrainian involvement in the killing.

In Monday’s statement, 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.

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 Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and urged the Kremlin to step up its operations there.

A man speaks into a microphone.
Alexander Dugin, Dugina’s father, is seen at an October 2014 Moscow rally in support of the Russian-backed, self-proclaimed separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine. (Moscow News Agency/Reuters)

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.”

Men pick at debris on the road.
Investigators are seen on Sunday working at the site of a suspected car bomb attack that killed Darya Dugina in the Moscow region. (Investigative Committee of Russia/Reuters)

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.

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.

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