Russian investigators said Sunday they believe the car bomb that killed Darya Dugina, a hawkish Russian commentator and the daughter of Russian ultra-nationalist political theorist Alexander Dugin, was likely "pre-planned and a murder for hire." Dugina, 29, was driving back to Moscow on Saturday night from a festival she and her father had attended when an explosive device under the car's driver's seat detonated, the Russian Investigative Committee's Moscow branch said in a statement.
Dugin had reportedly planned to ride home with his daughter but got in a different car at the last minute. Andrey Krasnov, a friend of Dugin's, told Russian state media that Dugina was driving her father's SUV and he believes Dugin was the target of the attack, "or maybe the two of them." Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed separatist Donetsk People's Republic, quickly blamed the explosion on "terrorists of the Ukrainian regime, trying to kill Alexander Dugin." He did not provide any evidence, and Ukraine denied any involvement.
"Ukraine certainly had nothing to do with yesterday's explosion," Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on TV Sunday morning. "We are not a criminal state like the Russian Federation, much less a terrorist one."
An unknown Russian group, the National Republican Army, claimed responsibility for the bombing, The Associated Press reports, though "AP could not verify the existence of the group."
Dugin's ultra-nationalist, imperialist, and anti-Western political philosophy is believed to be so influential to Russian President Vladimir Putin's worldview he is sometimes called "Putin's brain" or "Putin's Rasputin," though it isn't clear the two men have much of a personal connection. Darya Dugina was not as well known in Russia but was, like her father, an ultra-nationalist commentator and a vocal proponent of Russia's Ukraine invasion.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Dugina in March, describing her as the editorial chief of an English-language disinformation site owned by close Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, and Britain followed suit in July, calling Dugina a "frequent and high-profile contributor of disinformation in relation to Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Ukraine on various online platforms." Dugin has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea.