Ukrainian special forces were behind a Moscow car bombing that killed the daughter of an ally of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s security service has claimed – as her father called on his country to win the war in “revenge”.
She rented an apartment, from where she researched Darya Dugina, daughter of Russian ultra-nationalist and political theorist Alexander Dugin, and went to an event attended by the pair outside Moscow on Saturday.
After carrying out a “controlled explosion” on the Toyota Land Cruiser that Ms Dugina was travelling in, which belonged to her father, the FSB claimed the suspect fled to Estonia.
Ukraine has denied it was involved, and has blamed internal power struggles between “various political factions” in Russia for the attack.
‘Thirsting for revenge’
Ms Dugina’s father, in his first public statement since his daughter’s death, also pointed the finger at Ukraine.
Footage had shown Mr Dugin at the scene after the explosion, his hands clutching his head in horror.
He wrote: “Our hearts are not simply thirsting for revenge or retribution. We only need our victory (against Ukraine).
“My daughter has sacrificed her young life on the altar of victory. So please win!”
He added a memorial service would be held on Tuesday at Moscow’s TV centre.
Mr Putin reportedly paid tribute to Ms Dugina as a Russian patriot.
An image of her alleged female assassin appeared on Russian news websites, which linked her to Ukraine’s security services and accused her of being a member of the Azov battalion, a unit of Ukraine’s army that Russia has designated a terrorist group.
The FSB was quoted as saying she had driven a Mini Cooper around Moscow which she used to spy on Ms Dugina and for which she had three different sets of licence plates to avoid detection.
The TASS news agency reported Russian law enforcement agencies had placed the woman, said to have been born in 1979, on the country’s wanted list, with Moscow seeking her extradition from Estonia.
‘Not the most obvious target’
Earlier, a top former diplomat had cast doubts on claims Ukraine was behind the killing.
Ex-UK ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Brenton told Sky News it was “quite unlikely” – adding that he thought the father rather than the daughter was probably the intended target.
He said: “Russia is a pretty tightly controlled state at the moment, and for a state which they are at war [with] to organise a car bombing in Moscow – bang in the centre of Russian security concerns – looks like a pretty tough order.
“If they could do it, Dugin wouldn’t be the most obvious target. There are lots of other more influential Russians around who they could have gone for.”
Sir Tony did not rule out the possibility the daughter – who had appeared on state TV to offer support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine – may have been the intended target as she shared her father’s right-wing views, but added Mr Dugin is “a much better known figure than she was”.
There are “all sorts of wild conspiracy theories”, Sir Tony added, including that some obscure Russian partisan group was responsible for the bombing, or the nationalists themselves in Russia had done it as a way of getting the government to be tougher in the war.
“It remains unclear and is subject to investigation,” Sir Tony said.
Putin likely ‘disappointed’ with state of war
Mr Dugin has long called for the unification of Russian-speaking and other territories in a vast new Russian empire.
Sir Tony said it was unclear how much influence Mr Dugin had on the Russian leader, but they shared the view “that Russia is the greatest nation on Earth, that it has maintained its greatness amongst other things by incorporating key Slavic Nations, including Ukraine, and therefore the Russian action against Ukraine is entirely justified”.
However, he said Mr Putin was likely “a disappointed man” in terms of the progress of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been slow despite its massive artillery superiority.
“It looks like the war is heading towards and already may be at a stalemate,” Sir Tony said.