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Who is Darya Dugina, daughter of Putin’s ally and victim of a car bomb?

Darya Dugina, a Russian journalist and daughter of Putin’s close ally, was killed in a car bombing. What happened?

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Investigators work on the site of explosion of a car driven by Darya Dugina outside Moscow.

In this handout photo taken from video released by the Investigative Committee of Russia on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, investigators work on the site of explosion of a car driven by Darya Dugina outside Moscow. Dugina, the daughter of Alexander Dugin, the Russian nationalist ideologist often called “Putin’s brain,” was killed when her car exploded on the outskirts of Moscow, officials said Sunday. The Investigative Committee branch for the Moscow region said the Saturday night blast was caused by a bomb planted in the SUV driven by Dugina.

Investigative Committee of Russia via Associated Press

Darya Dugina, 29, the daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close ally, Alexander Dugin, died after a vehicle she was driving exploded near Moscow. Russian officials say a bomb was planted in her SUV and detonated after she had left a cultural festival she was attending with her father. 

Russian officials, along with Dugin, have called this an act of terror, stating that the “enemies of Russia” had killed her, portraying her as a martyr. However, speculation lingers on who could have carried out this attack and why. 

Who is Darya Dugina?

Dugina was a TV commentator and journalist for several Russian media organizations. She worked as an editor alongside her father for United World International, a self-proclaimed independent media organization. Like her father, she shared many right-wing and traditionalist values. 

The United States and the United Kingdom had both placed Dugina under sanctions for her statements in the media, saying that she was a “frequent and high-profile contributor of disinformation in relation to Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Ukraine on various online platforms,” per The New York Times

Who is responsible?

Shortly after the incident, Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, claimed to have solved the investigation. The FSB alleges that Ukraine is responsible for the bombing, according to BBC News.

The FSB states that a woman who works for Ukrainian secret services had moved into the same apartment building as Dugina in July. They claim this woman had been following Dugina in a Mini Cooper, using three different license plates to avoid detection.

Russian newspapers claim that this woman is linked to the Azov battalion, deemed a terrorist group in Russia. However, the Azov battalion refutes this, stating that the woman was never a member of their group, per Reuters. After the bombing, newspapers allege, she fled to Estonia. 

The Ukrainian government also disputes accusations leveled against it. “Ukraine certainly had nothing to do with yesterday’s explosion,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “We are not a criminal state like the Russian Federation, much less a terrorist one.”

What was the motive?

Russia has speculated that Dugina’s father, Alexander, was the intended target of the bomb. The pair planned to leave together after attending a festival earlier that day, but in a last-minute decision, Dugin decided to leave in a separate vehicle, according to BBC.

Dugin has been a close ally of Putin and an avid supporter of the invasion of Ukraine. He disdains the idea of an independent Ukraine and has advocated for a violent restructuring of the country. 

“Ukraine has to be either vanished from Earth and rebuilt from scratch or people need to get it. I think people in Ukraine need total revolt on all levels and in all regions,” Dugin said, per CNN. “I think kill, kill and kill. No more talk anymore. It is my opinion as a professor.” 

With tensions high between Russia and Ukraine, there could be any number of people who have a vendetta against Dugin and are willing to carry out such an attack, and such a person could come from a number of backgrounds or organizations.

For example, a former Russian lawmaker, Ilya Ponomaryov, says that a Russian militant organization called the National Republican Army reached out to him, claiming responsibility for the attack. However, Reuters and other news organizations have not been able to back up this claim, nor has Ponomaryov provided any further evidence to back these claims.