A large car-bomb explosion tore apart a Toyota Land Cruiser outside Moscow Saturday night, the only person inside was the driver, journalist and political scientist Darya Dugina, the 30 year old daughter of Alexander Dugin, the nationalist Russian philosopher. The blast took place approximately at 9:35 PM local time on the Mozhaisk highway roughly 20 miles west of Moscow. Russian state media has reported that associates of Dugin believe he was the intended target. Ukraine is suspected of being behind the killing, which Russian investigators described as looking like a "murder for hire." Speculation in the media and Kiev is that Russia will respond forcefully.
Earlier in the evening, both Dugina and her father attended a family festival in the Moscow region where Dugin gave a lecture on "Tradition and History." The two were planning on leaving together in Dugin’s SUV. However, Dugin reportedly made a last minute decision to change vehicles, while his daughter drove away with his car. Five minutes later, the bomb – which investigators say was placed underneath the Toyota near the driver’s seat – detonated. Witnesses say the blast occurred in the middle of the road and debris was scattered all around the scene. According to photos and videos, the car was engulfed in flames and crashed into a fence, emergency services personnel said Dugina was burned beyond recognition. Across social media, videos of the aftermath showed Dugin visibly shocked and holding his head in his hands as he looked on at the fiery wreckage. Early reports suggested a home-made explosive was involved.
As an explosives expert examined the burned out vehicle in a specialized parking lot, Russian authorities looking into the incident have seized evidence including dash-cam footage, and launched a murder investigation. Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s equivalent of the FBI, released a statement which said given "the data already obtained, the investigation believes that the crime was pre-planned and a murder for hire." Andrey Krasnov, said to be a friend of Dugin, told Tass that it is possible both Dugin and his daughter were targeted.
Tass also cited an unnamed law enforcement source who said the security situation at the festival was lax. There were apparently no security precautions taken at the entrance of the parking lot where Dugin’s car was parked.
No suspects have yet been identified but accusations of Kiev’s involvement have been proliferating. The president of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin wrote on Telegram that "terrorists of the Ukrainian regime" were responsible. Sergei Markov, an analyst and former Putin advisor, said Dugin was likely the intended target, adding “it’s completely obvious that the most probable suspects are Ukrainian military intelligence and the Ukrainian Security Service.”
Kiev has denied responsibility. “We are not a criminal state, unlike Russia, and definitely not a terrorist state,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Though Russian politicians and commentators are incredulous and desire revenge. Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova did not attribute blame to Ukrainian forces, but she said in a statement if the "Ukrainian trace is confirmed… then we are talking about the policy of state terrorism implemented by the Kiev regime."
Dugina was a political commentator placed under American and British sanctions for allegedly spreading "disinformation" regarding Ukraine. According to CBS, she was the chief editor of both United World International and the "nationalist" TV channel Tsargrad.
The Washington Post’s coverage repeatedly attempts to denigrate the deceased Dugina by peddling U.S. claims that her journalistic endeavors were "disinformation." The Post is of course owned by Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon has a $600 million dollar cloud-computing services contract with the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2019, by contrast, when a US Special Forces raid killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Post infamously described him in a headline as an "austere religious scholar." Ironically, ISIS’ so called "caliphate" in eastern Syria and western Iraq was made possible by the CIA’s ample support for al Qaeda affiliates during the Barack Obama administration’s dirty war and attempted regime change against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Dugin, known for his anti-West and ‘neo-Eurasian’ viewpoint has been hit with US sanctions as well. He is often described by some in the West as having massive influence over Putin and his foreign policy, however this is widely disputed. CBS has called him "the far-right theorist behind Putin’s plan," But even the Post’s article admits "the extent of their direct relationship is unclear and he doesn’t hold an official government position."
In 2017, the RAND Corporation wrote that, despite the accusations, Dugin is "perhaps best thought of as an extremist provocateur with some limited and peripheral impact than as an influential analyst with a direct impact on policy. He does not appear to have direct involvement with the major political parties – such as United Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and Rodina – advocating anti-Western and aggressive regional policies. He was also removed from his position at Moscow State University after calling for the killing of Ukrainian nationalists, and he has offered significant criticism of Putin’s policies in Ukraine."
The murder of Dugina is only expected to inflame tensions. Zelensky is taking the opportunity to warn Russia will escalate the war in the wake of Dugina’s killing, saying "we should be conscious of the fact that this week Russia may try to do something particularly nasty."
There is some reason to suspect Kiev may have been involved in the car bombing. In June, the Times spoke with an intelligence officer and two sergeants in the Ukrainian special forces elite Shaman battalion who said they had been carrying out attacks inside Russia involving sabotage and explosives.
As the Libertarian Institute’s Kyle Anzalone wrote:
The officers said they successfully carried out raids involving explosions to sow confusion and dissent among Russians.
One of the special operations officers explained the missions involved sabotage and explosives. "The most interesting missions are working behind enemy lines; planting explosives behind the front lines, beyond the border," he said. The second sergeant indicated the Shaman battalion’s raid behind enemy lines was successful. He claimed, "The Russians don’t know what happened, they often can’t believe we were there."
The officers gave few details about their operations to The Times. There have been several explosions inside Russia since President Valdimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Kiev has not officially claimed responsibility for any attacks inside of Russia but has hinted it might be behind some of the explosions.
Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Antiwar.com, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.