Car bombs used to be a fixture of gangland feuds in 1990s Russia but have since fallen out of fashion. This makes it all the more striking when, as happened on Saturday night, such a device rips through a car just outside Moscow, killing Darya Dugina, daughter of the controversial nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin.
She was a prominent figure in her own right, a journalist working for an outfit Washington says is owned by Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin – under sanctions in the West for being the godfather of both the Wagner mercenary group and the infamous social media ‘troll farms’ – who had been a cheerleader for the war in Ukraine. Indeed, she was under sanctions, with the UK government describing her as a ‘frequent and high-profile contributor of disinformation in relation to Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Ukraine’.
Inevitably there is a widespread assumption that the real target was her father. The car was said to have been his, although other accounts say it was registered in her name. Either way, he would have been in it had he not at the last moment chosen to return home another way. No one has yet claimed responsibility, but in the charged political environment of the moment, everyone is blaming their favourite villain.
Already, Russian commentators are blaming Kyiv, without explaining either why Dugin would be their target of choice – there are much more rabid and influential commentators on Ukraine – or how they managed to pull off an attack in the very heart of the Russian security state. Likewise, others assume this was a Kremlin hit, either because they wanted to make Dugin a symbolic martyr or else because they feared ultra-nationalists like him would stir up protest were Russia to step back from its war in Ukraine.