Wagner Chief Boss’ Death May Cause Problems For Putin
The Kremlin came out this Friday, August 25, at the crossroads of the “speculations” that arose after the death of the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeni Prigozhin, and denied any involvement in the crash of the plane in which he was traveling. “It is an absolute lie,” said the presidential spokesman, Dimitri Peskov, in a statement.
In addition, Vladimir Putin’s government officials attributed the rumors to Western interests and called on the world community to rely solely on the “facts.”
Peskov also recalled that the president himself, Vladimir Putin, publicly expressed his condolences on the death of a man who, according to his own words, had made some “mistakes” throughout his life.
Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Thursday the death of the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Putin promised to investigate what happened and sent his condolences to the family.
“Regarding this plane crash, first of all, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of all the victims,” said the president in a televised meeting. This was the first time Putin referenced the Wednesday plane crash north of Moscow that killed all 10 people on board, including Yevgeni Prigozhin, and his right-hand man, Dmitry Utkin.
Prigozhin led an unsuccessful mutiny against the Kremlin in June and has been hiding since then. However, this Monday he posted a video in which it seemed he was in an African country, where Wagner operates from several states.
What The US Thinks
The United States believes that the downed plane carrying Prigozhin and his right-hand man was brought down by a surface-to-air missile launched from Russia. According to Flightradar24 records of the crashed plane, the aircraft did not show any signs of trouble until it began a sharp fall in its last 30 seconds.
During a meeting in the Kremlin, Putin praised Prigozhin, calling him “a talented man.” “These are people who have made a significant contribution to our common cause against neo-Nazis,” he said, referring to the invasion of Ukraine and omitting any reference to the armed rebellion in which around 15 Russian soldiers were killed and at least two helicopters shot down.
Putin said that he had known Prigozhin since the 1990s. “He is a man of complicated fate. He made serious mistakes in his life, but he also achieved the right results,” he said without elaborating. “As far as I know, he came back from Africa yesterday and met some officials here,” he added.
Shortly after Yevgeny Prigozhin led his “march on Moscow”, US CIA chief William Burns predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would take his time for revenge. “What we’re seeing is a very complex dance,” Burns suggested in July during the Aspen Security Forum. “Putin is the ultimate apostle of payback.”
The Plane Crash
The private plane crashed in the Tver region, north of the capital, from where it took off to head to the city of Saint Petersburg. It had seven passengers and three crew members on board. The crashed plane had been on the US sanctions list since 2019 for its connections to the founder and head of Wagner, and, according to journalist Ksenia Sobchak on her Telegram channel, the plane belonged to Prigozhin.
The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelensky, reassured the public this Thursday that he was not related to the incident, although he celebrated his death: “Of course, it is a good thing for Ukraine. We have nothing to do with it, we know who it was,” Zelensky said in a news conference that was held in Kyiv.