US reportedly believes Ukraine authorised Moscow car bomb

<span>Photograph: Tsargrad.TV/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Tsargrad.TV/Reuters

The Kremlin has welcomed a news report that US intelligence believes a bomb attack that killed a Russian commentator and journalist outside Moscow in August was authorised by Ukrainian government officials.

The report in the New York Times about the car bomb attack on Darya Dugina has not been confirmed and has been denied by Kyiv. The report said “parts” of the Ukrainian government were involved in the 20 August blast outside Moscow and that the US had no prior knowledge, provided no intelligence or other assistance, would have opposed it and “admonished” Ukrainian officials about it afterwards.

It gave no more details of the killing or specifics of what part of the Ukrainian government was suspected of involvement.

The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, described the report as positive, as it confirmed the findings of Russian security services. But he added: “I really want to hope that this is not some attempt by our American colleagues to absolve themselves of responsibility for any preparations for future terrorist acts which the Ukrainian state, the Ukrainian regime, might prepare.”

Asked about the New York Times account, a Ukrainian presidential aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that, “objectively speaking”, Dugina had been of no interest to Kyiv before she was killed.

“Before Dugina’s murder, the people of Ukraine and representatives of the Ukrainian authorities did not know about her public activities and her influence on propaganda programmes,” Podolyak told Reuters.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed a female Ukrainian agent had trailed Dugina for weeks, renting an apartment in the same housing complex, and planted a bomb in Dugina’s Toyota Land Cruiser hours before the blast, before fleeing to Estonia.

The agency later released CCTV footage of what it called a second suspect, who allegedly assembled the bomb in a rented Moscow garage and provided fake documents and Kazakh car number plates for the bomber. It said he also crossed into Estonia after the 20 August blast.

Related: Russia alleges second Ukrainian involved in Darya Dugina killing

Dugina’s father, Alexander Dugin, a prominent Russian nationalist ideologue favoured by Vladimir Putin, had been due to travel with her but their plans changed not long before the blast and he took another car. There is speculation he was the target, though his 29-year-old daughter was also a frequent commentator on state television and an outspoken supporter of the invasion of Ukraine.

The US Treasury sanctioned Dugina in March, on grounds she worked for a disinformation campaign said to be controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close Putin associate who founded the Wagner Group mercenary organisation. Among other things, the campaign, Project Lakhta, created fictitious online Americans with the intention of interfering in US elections.

Alexey Slobodenyuk, Wagner’s head of media, was arrested on Wednesday by paramilitary police for reasons that have not been explained. Slobodenyuk has been fiercely critical of the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, and his conduct of the war, and his dramatic arrest, video of which was circulated on social media, raises the possibility of dissension at the top levels of Putin’s regime.