Russia: the daughter of Putin’s ally, Alexander Dugin, killed in the explosion of a car

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The daughter of Alexander Dugin, a far-right Russian nationalist who helped shape the ideas behind President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, was killed on Saturday when the car she was driving exploded near Moscow, according to Russia’s top investigative authority.

The Russian Investigative Committee said it was investigating the incident and opened a criminal murder case.

A Toyota Land Cruiser “exploded at full speed on a public road” and burst into flames, he added, after an “explosive device planted under the bottom of the driver’s side of the car” detonated. The driver, identified by the committee as “journalist and political scientist Daria Dugina”, died at the scene. He said early evidence pointed to “murder for hire”.

Dugina, 29, was driving her father’s car from a festival they were both attending when the explosion happened, engulfing the car in flames, Dugin’s friend Andrey Krasnov told the media outlet. State Tass. Krasnov said he thought his father was under attack, “or maybe both.”

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Dugin, an acerbic critic of the United States, closely linked to the Kremlin, is sometimes nicknamed “Putin’s Rasputin” or “Putin’s brain”. Although he does not hold an official government post and the extent of his direct relationship with Putin is unclear, Dugin has long called for Ukraine to be reabsorbed by Russia – and experts say his expansionist language and views on Russia’s place in the world have been echoed by the Kremlin and in Putin’s recent speeches.

His daughter also spoke publicly in favor of the war in Ukraine and Russian expansion. In March, she was sanctioned by the United States as part of a list of Russian elites and Russian intelligence-run disinformation outlets, alongside her father designated for sanctions since 2015. She also was sanctioned by the UK in July for supporting the Russian invasion.

“The car immediately caught fire [following the explosion]. She lost control, as she was driving at high speed, and flew across the road,” Krasnov told Russian state media Tass, describing it as a “very serious event.”

Krasnov said Dugin, who left the festival in another vehicle, returned to the scene after the explosion. Videos circulating on social media appear to show a visibly distraught Dugin standing on a debris-strewn road, holding his head in his hands. The remains of a car were in flames on the side of the road. The Washington Post was not immediately able to independently verify the videos.

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The explosion occurred around 9 p.m. local time near the village of Bolshie Vyazyomy, southwest of Moscow, the committee said. Investigators were dispatched to the scene and seized evidence, including dashcam footage, while an explosives expert examined the burnt-out car in a dedicated car park, the committee said on Sunday.

The incident seemed poised to create a new flashpoint.

Denis Pushilin, a prominent separatist leader and key figure in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, immediately blamed Ukraine for Dugina’s death, without providing any evidence.

Ukrainian officials denied any involvement in the explosion and suggested it could be the result of an internal conflict within Russia. “Regarding yesterday [death of Daria Dugina] okay, I emphasize that we certainly have nothing to do with it,” Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told Ukrainian television on Sunday.

“We don’t even comment on this, because it’s not an interesting topic for Ukrainian special services,” Andrii Yusov, spokesman for Ukraine’s General Directorate of Military Intelligence, told The Washington Post on Sunday. Yusov added that Dugina was not someone Ukrainian military intelligence would “make official statements about.”

Yet Yusov noted that “I can say that the process of internal destruction of the ‘Russky Mir’, or ‘the Russian world’, has begun” and predicted that “the Russian world will eat and devour itself from within” .

Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on Sunday that if it turns out that Ukraine was involved in the death of Dugina, “we should talk about the state terrorism policy implemented by the Kyiv regime”. She said Pushilin’s claims “need to be verified by relevant authorities.”

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The UK Treasury Department described Dugina in its sanctions list as “a frequent and high-level contributor of misinformation regarding Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Ukraine on various online platforms”.

The US Treasury Department, after sanctioning Dugina, said she was the editor of a disinformation website called United World International, which had suggested Ukraine would ‘perish’ if admitted to the NATO. The website was developed by a Russian political influence operation called “Project Lakhta”, which Treasury officials say has used fictitious online characters to interfere in US elections since at least 2014.

According to Treasury officials, Dugina’s father was first named in 2015 for “being responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

Dugin was a leader of the Eurasian Youth Union, which actively recruited people with military and combat experience to fight on behalf of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine that has played a central role in Putin’s justification of the war.

In an interview with a Russian YouTuber in March, Dugina said that Ukrainian identity is mainly located in western Ukraine and that eastern Ukraine – including the Donbass region – was susceptible to accept a “Eurasian empire” on the basis of religious faith and nationality.

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