Ukraine's spy service orchestrated the assassination of the daughter of a leading Kremlin hardliner last year using bomb parts smuggled inside a cat carrier, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
Darya Dugina, the 29-year-old daughter of Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin, an outspoken advocate for the invasion of Ukraine, was killed in a shock car bombing in the outskirts of Moscow in August 2022.
Weeks earlier, a mother and her 12-year-old daughter drove into Russia from Estonia in a "cluttered" car containing a cat carrier with a hidden compartment for containing parts of the bomb that killed Dugina, the Post reported, citing unnamed security officials familiar with the operation.
The woman took an apartment in the same complex as Dugina and surveilled her before the operation, Russian officials have said. The bomb was intended to kill Dugin, but he got into a different car.
Within days, Russia had accused Ukrainian spies of being behind the brazen attack. Kyiv has denied the claim.
US intelligence drew the same conclusion, however, and officials told The New York Times last year that they had admonished Ukraine over it.
The Post reported Monday that Ukraine's domestic security service, the SBU, was behind the attack, citing unnamed current and former US and Ukrainian officials.
"The August 2022 attack is part of a raging shadow war in which Ukraine's spy services have also twice bombed the bridge connecting Russia to occupied Crimea, piloted drones into the roof of the Kremlin and blown holes in the hulls of Russian naval vessels in the Black Sea," the report said.
The missions involved Ukrainian teams "formed, trained and equipped in close partnership with the CIA," the Post reported, adding that the extent of the CIA's partnership with Ukraine's security services -- which dates back to 2015, after Russia annexed Crimea -- has not been previously disclosed.
But the Post also said there was growing unease over the "dozens" of assassinations carried out by the SBU and its military arm, the GUR, in recent months.
They include a Russian submarine commander killed while out jogging in a park, a militant blogger who died in a bomb blast at a cafe, and a rebel commander killed when a woman who had accused him of rape planted a bomb at his side.
US officials told the Post that the Central Intelligence Agency had no involvement in assassinations carried out by Ukrainian agencies.
The run of killings has caused disquiet among officials in Washington and Kyiv who question the CIA's complicity, the Post said.
One US official told the Post that the "emphasis was 'more on secure communications and tradecraft,' and pursuing new streams of intelligence inside Russia rather than 'here's how you blow up a mayor.'"
Ukrainian officials told the Post that security services have been forced to use the tactics as they hold off a more powerful adversary, and cited Russia's own record of assassinations.
The SBU's director, Vasyl Malyuk, told the Post that all "targets hit by the SBU are completely legal."