Russia claims Ukrainian female assassin carried out nationalist’s car bombing

Russia blames the killing of the pro-Kremlin journalist on Ukrainian special services but Kyiv denies it is behind the attack, as Senior International Correspondent John Irvine reports

Moscow's counterintelligence has blamed Ukrainian spy services for the death of a leading Russian nationalist's daughter who was killed in a car bombing.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said that 29-year-old Daria Dugina’s killing had been “prepared and perpetrated by the Ukrainian special services.”

In a statement, the FSB accused a Ukrainian citizen, Natalya Vovk, of perpetrating the killing and then fleeing from Russia to Estonia.

ITV News has been told by a Ukrainian military source that the country is not behind the attack.

A blast was set off on Saturday night when a remotely controlled bomb detonated in the car driven by Ms Dugina, according to the Investigative Committee branch for the Moscow region. She was killed instantly.

Ms Dugina was the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a prominent proponent of the "Russian world" concept ideology and a vehement supporter of Russia's sending of troops into Ukraine. He is described by some in the West as “Putin’s brain.”

Ms Dugina - herself a far-right activist - had vocally supported her father and appeared as a commentator on the nationalist TV channel, Tsargrad, where Mr Dugina had served as chief editor.

A handout from Russia's Investigative Committee shows investigators on the site of the explosion. Credit: Investigative Committee of Russia via AP

In a letter extending condolences to Mr Dugin and his wife, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the “cruel and treacherous” killing and added that Ms Dugina “honestly served people and the Fatherland, proving what it means to be a patriot of Russia with her deeds.”

He posthumously awarded Dugina the Order of Courage, one of Russia's highest medals.

“Dasha, like her father, has always been at the forefront of confrontation with the West,” Tsargrad said on Sunday, using the familiar form of her name.

Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak denied any Ukrainian involvement in the killing.

In a tweet, he dismissed the FSB claims as fiction, casting them as part of infighting between Russian security agencies.

"We are not a criminal state, unlike Russia, and definitely not a terrorist state," he said.

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The explosion happened as Ms Dugina was returning from a cultural festival she had attended with her father.

Some Russian media reports cited witnesses as saying the vehicle belonged to her father and that the pair decided to switch vehicles last minute and travel separately.

The FSB claim that suspect arrived in Russia in July with her 12-year-old daughter and rented an apartment in the building where Dugina lived to shadow her.

It said that Vovk and her daughter were at a nationalist festival, which Alexander Dugin and his daughter attended just before the killing.

Estonia's prosecutor general's office said in a statement, carried by the Baltic News Services, that it “has not received any requests or inquiries from the Russian authorities on this topic.”

Denis Pushilin, president of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic - which is a focus of Russia's fighting in Ukraine - blamed it on “terrorists of the Ukrainian regime, trying to kill Alexander Dugin."

A Ukrainian military source, however, told ITV News the country is "concerned on its own territories including Crimea", adding "Dugin is not that important to be destroyed."

Alexander Dugin is often referred to as 'Putin's brain.' Credit: AP

While Mr Dugin's exact ties to President Putin are unclear, the Kremlin frequently echoes rhetoric from his writings and appearances on Russian state TV.

He helped popularise the "Novorossiya" or "New Russia" concept that Moscow used to justify the 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, and its support of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Ms Dugina herself was sanctioned by the US in March for her work as chief editor of United World International, a website that American authorities described as a disinformation source.

The sanctions announcement cited a United World article this year that contended Ukraine would “perish” if it were admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).