Sources with knowledge of the intelligence told CNN that the U.S. intelligence community believes the car bombing that killed Daria Dukina, the daughter of prominent Russian politician Alexander Dukin, was authorized by someone inside the Ukrainian government.
The U.S. had no prior knowledge of the plan, and it was unclear who exactly the U.S. believed signed off on the assassination, the sources said. It is also unclear whether the U.S. intelligence community believes that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky knew or authorized the plot.
But intelligence findings first reported by The New York Times appeared to confirm Russian authorities’ findings that the car bombings were “pre-planned.” Russia has blamed Ukrainian nationals for the attack, which Ukraine has vehemently denied after the blast.
When asked for comment, a Ukrainian defense intelligence official told CNN on Wednesday night that their agency had no new information about Dugina’s death after the latest report. Shortly after her death, the same official told CNN that Ukraine had nothing to do with the matter.
The National Security Council, CIA and State Department declined to comment.
U.S. intelligence officials believe Dougina was driving her father’s car the night he was killed, and her father was the actual target of the operation, one of the sources said. Dugin is a Russian ultra-nationalist and philosopher who has been a strong supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Shortly after the blast, a friend of Dugina’s also told Russian state news outlet TASS that the car she was driving belonged to her father.
Days after Dugina’s death, Russian authorities accused a Ukrainian woman of remotely detonating explosives in Dugina’s Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and then fleeing by driving through the Pskov region into Estonia.
Ukraine’s National Security Council secretary Oleksi Danilov immediately denied the allegation. “We have nothing to do with the murder of this lady – it’s the job of Russian special forces,” he said in August. Zelensky’s adviser Mikhailo Podoljak also said at the time that the Russian allegations reflected a “fictional world” in which the Russian government was operating.
Intelligence about Ukraine’s involvement, if accurate, would herald a bold expansion of Ukraine’s covert operation to target a prominent political figure outside Moscow.
To date, Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil have been largely limited to attacks on fuel depots and military bases in cities along the Russian-Ukrainian border, such as Belgorod. But sources told CNN that the U.S. does not have a good understanding of all planned strikes in Ukraine.
A Ukrainian official told CNN that at a meeting in Istanbul earlier this week between U.S. National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan and Zelensky’s chief of staff Andrei Yermak, the U.S. intelligence community’s findings were mixed. not raised. It is unclear whether President Joe Biden raised the issue in a phone call with Zelensky recently on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment.
Dugina, who was 29 when she was killed, was a public figure in her own right, frequently appearing as a commentator on Russian television networks promoting anti-Western, nationalist narratives.
As CNN previously reported, Dugina also runs an English- and Turkish-language website called United World International, which itself is part of a wider publicity effort called “Project Lakhta.” The US State Department has accused Project Lakhta of deploying online “trolls” to interfere in US elections.
The United States sanctioned Dukin and Dukina after the Russian invasion in February, accusing them of spreading propaganda and acting to destabilize Ukraine.
This story was updated on Wednesday with new reporting.