- The Washington Times
Sunday, August 21, 2022

Russian hardline nationalists rushed to blame Ukrainian agents for a stunning car bomb attack just outside Moscow on Saturday night that killed the daughter of a leading ideological thinker believed to be a major influence on the foreign policy of President Vladimir Putin.

The death of Daria Dugina, the 29-year-old daughter of ultranationalist Alexander Dugin, seems certain to add a new edge to the fighting in Ukraine, where the invasion Mr. Putin ordered in February is about to mark its sixth month of indecisive fighting.

Russian investigators said Ms. Dugina died when a bomb placed in her Toyota Land Cruiser detonated on a highway on the outskirts of Moscow. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and social media captured images apparently showing her anguished father viewing the bombing site.

There were conflicting reports on whether Mr. Dugin, a shadowy but influential figure some have called “Putin‘s brain,” was the real target of the attack, and whether the car was registered in his or his daughter’s name.

A top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday morning that Kyiv had played no role in the attack, but Russian nationalists and pro-Russia Ukrainian separatist leaders rejected that and demanded revenge.

“Vile villains! The Ukrainian regime terrorists tried to liquidate Alexander Dugin, but blew up his daughter,” Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway Donetsk statelet that Russia has recognized since the war began, wrote on Telegram, according to Agence-France Presse.

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Both father and daughter were deeply involved in ultranationalist Russian thought circles, promoting what Mr. Dugin called “Novorossiya,” or New Russia, built on an expansive vision of Russia’s global role as a defender of traditional values and strong central rule over Russian-speaking lands. Ms. Dugina worked as a television commentator on the nationalist TV channel Tsargrad, where her father once worked as a senior editor.

Ms. Dugina, “like her father, has always been at the forefront of confrontation with the West,” Tsargrad said in a statement Sunday.

Also like her father, Ms. Dugina was the target of Western sanctions for her work promoting hardline nationalist views and attacking the West. The Biden administration in March sanctioned her for her work as chief editor of United World International (UWI), a website that U.S. Treasury officials described as a source of disinformation with ties to close advisers of Mr. Putin.

“Since at least 2014, [the website] has used, among other things, fictitious online personas that posed as U.S. persons to interfere in U.S. elections, as [Russian hacking operations] did during the 2016 U.S. election. In 2022, UWI suggested that Ukraine would ‘perish’ if it is admitted to NATO,” the Treasury sanctioning notice read in part.

Mr. Dugin’s direct influence on Mr. Putin has long been a matter of dispute among Kremlin watchers, but many of his long-argued ideas have clearly been on display in the Russian president’s justification for his decision to invade.

An ardent Russian nationalist, Mr. Dugin has called for the unification of all Russian-speaking peoples — including large enclaves in Ukraine and other former parts of the Soviet empire — into one nation and, like Mr. Putin, has argued that Ukraine itself was culturally and politically an integral part of Russia and not a distinct nationality.

He strongly backed Mr. Putin‘s decision to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, an operation many see as a dress rehearsal for the decision this year to invade Ukraine.

And like Mr. Putin, he has argued that Russia should stand as a bulwark for traditional Christian values in a “clash of civilizations” against the secularizing influences of the West.

Russian investigators said Sunday morning they were treating the car bombing as a “premeditated” contract hit and pursuing all possible leads.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper quoted a friend of Ms. Dugina who said the philosopher and his daughter were supposed to leave together after attending a cultural festival Saturday night, but at the last moment, the daughter went off in the Toyota Land Cruiser alone.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelenskyy, strongly denied any role by Ukraine in the killing, telling a television interviewer, “Ukraine has absolutely nothing to do with this, because we are not a criminal state like Russia, or a terrorist one at that.”

Separately, a shadowy Russian dissident group issued its own claim of responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by an underground movement inside Russia itself determined to topple Mr. Putin‘s regime. Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of the Russian Duma now living in exile in Kyiv, made the claim.

Saying he spoke for partisans of the underground National Republican Army, Mr. Ponomarev told a Ukrainian Russian-language television station Sunday that “this attack opens a new page in Russian resistance to Putinism. New — but not the last.”

• This article is based, in part, on wire service reports.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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