Russia: Daughter of 'Putin's brain' Dugin killed in car explosion - report

Darya Dugina is the daughter of Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, a supporter of Vladimir Putin who has espoused supposedly fascist views.

 Investigators work at the site of a suspected car bomb attack that killed Darya Dugina, daughter of ultra-nationalist Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin, in the Moscow region, Russia August 21, 2022. (photo credit: Investigative Committee of Russia/Handout via REUTERS)
Investigators work at the site of a suspected car bomb attack that killed Darya Dugina, daughter of ultra-nationalist Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin, in the Moscow region, Russia August 21, 2022.
(photo credit: Investigative Committee of Russia/Handout via REUTERS)

The daughter of a Russian political philosopher and strategist close to President Vladimir Putin was killed Saturday evening when her car exploded near Moscow, Russian media reported Sunday.

The car that Darya Dugina was killed in, a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, belonged to her father, Alexander Dugin.

The explosion itself happened in the village of Bolshiye Vyaziomy in Russia's Moscow Oblast.

Were "Ukrainian terrorists" responsible?

The head of Russia's Investigative Committee ordered the institution's central branch to take over the investigation.

"An explosive device was placed on the underside of the car on the driver's side," the committee said in a statement. "Darya Dugina, who was behind the wheel, died at the scene.

"The investigation believes that the crime was planned in advance and was of a contractual nature," it added.

Maria Zakharova, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said that if the investigation's trail led to Ukraine, then it would point to a policy of "state terrorism" being pursued by Kyiv.

 Controversial Russian political philosopher and strategist Aleksandr Dugin. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Controversial Russian political philosopher and strategist Aleksandr Dugin. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

According to Denis Pushilin, head of the pro-Russia separatist-controlled breakaway the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, Daria's death was due to a Ukrainian terrorist attack.

Pushilin claimed that Daria's father was the target and called on those responsible to be brought to justice, RIA reported.

Ukraine denied involvement.

"I confirm that Ukraine, of course, had nothing to do with this because we are not a criminal state, like the Russian Federation, and moreover we are not a terrorist state," said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, speaking on Ukrainian television.

He appeared to blame internal power struggles between "various political factions" in Russia for the killing, and suggested the incident was the "Karmic" payback for supporters of Russia's actions in Ukraine like Dugina and her father.

This comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to rage on, with Russia claiming they are "denazifying" its western neighbor. Russia has also long accused Ukraine's government of being a terrorist regime, an accusation widely discredited by the international community.

Who is Alexander Dugin?

Alexander Dugin is a political philosopher, analyst and strategist who has widely been seen as having fascist views. This includes having strong opposition to the West and its associated liberal values.

In the past, Dugin has helped form ultranationalist political parties and has endorsed the idea of a united state for all Russian-speaking peoples and the formation of a Euro-Asian empire, something others have also accused of being infused with fascist ideology.

In addition, Dugin has been a staunch supporter of Putin, specifically of his foreign policies, including the war on Ukraine, and played a role in the annexation of Crimea in 2014. In fact, Dugin has been described as Putin's intellectual mentor, with Washington Post columnist David von Drehle referring to him as the "brain of Putin."

Since 2015, both Dugin and his daughter Daria were sanctioned by the US and Canada. 

"He was a plain racist and antisemitic. He was officially homophobic. And really fascist. All the green lights of fascism were switched on. It was like a bazaar where you could find all the worst of European ideologies of the 20th century."

French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henry Levy on Alexander Dugin

Accusations of racism and antisemitism

In 2019, Dugin held a widely publicized debate with French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy hosted by the Nexus Institute in Amsterdam, where Levy accused him of being fascist, racist and antisemitic.

"The epitome of today's nihilism is you," Levy charged at the time. "And your friends. And the Eurasian current. And the morbid atmosphere that fills your books. And how it dissolves the very idea of human rights, of personal freedoms, of singularities, into some large blocks of community, great religions, sacred origins." He further said to Dugin "you clearly are antisemitic."

"Racism is an Anglo-Saxon liberal construction based on a hierarchy between peoples."

Alexander Dugin

Dugin argued that he was against fascism, nihilism and racism - including antisemitism. "Racism is an Anglo-Saxon liberal construction based on a hierarchy between peoples. I think this is criminal," he said. "And I think that now, globalism repeats this same crime, because what the globalists, the liberals, like yourself and people who support your ideas, now try to affirm as universal values, are simply modern, Western, liberal values. And that is a new kind of racism; cultural, civilizational racism."

Dugin had also accused Levy of being antisemitic as he is Jewish but an atheist. "I have many friends in Israel, in traditionalist circles of Israel that share my opinion. They are Jews who believe in God. In contrast with you, you define yourself as a Jew who doesn’t believe in the Jewish God. For my friends, this would be absolutely antisemitic, because the Jews are the people of God, and that is the essence. So without God the Jews lose their essence, their religious mission, their place in history."

Nearly three years later, Levy recounted his debate with Dugin, who he called an "inspirer of Putinism."

"I discussed seriously. But I was intimately laughing at this hodgepodge, this patchwork, this accumulation of pieces coming from ghost theories, vaguely assembled," Levy recalled. "It was not difficult to dismantle the whole thing. He was a plain racist and antisemitic. He was officially homophobic. And really fascist. All the green lights of fascism were switched on. It was like a bazaar where you could find all the worst of European ideologies of the 20th century."

This is a developing story.

Seth J. Frantzman contributed to this report.