Mercenary leader: Two months after mutiny against Putin: Prigozhin dead

Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has been killed in a plane crash in Russia two months after his mysterious mutiny.

Mercenary leader: Two months after mutiny against Putin: Prigozhin dead

Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has been killed in a plane crash in Russia two months after his mysterious mutiny. According to preliminary information, all ten people on board died, the Russian civil defense said.

The Telegram channel Gray Zone, which Prigozhin used, confirmed his death on Wednesday evening. The aviation authority Rosawiazija announced that according to the airline, his name was on the passenger list. Many commentators saw this as confirmation of Prigozhin's death. However, there was no direct confirmation from Rozawiazija or any other official body in Russia that Prigozhin was dead.

There was no official information about the cause of the crash. The Russian authorities initiated investigations. However, Gray Zone spread the version of a targeted shooting down by the Russian Air Force. This assertion could not be verified. "Prigozhin died as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia," the post said. "But even in Hell he will be the best!"

Eight bodies recovered from the rubble

The Embraer Legacy 600 aircraft was to fly from Moscow to St. Petersburg, where Prigozhin's companies are based. It crashed in the Tver region near Kuschenkino, more than 200 kilometers from Moscow. There were three crew members on board. Eight bodies were recovered from the rubble later that evening, sources in the Bologoye city rescue service told Tass agency.

According to Gray Zone, former intelligence agent Dmitri Utkin, the official Wagner commander, was also on the passenger list. According to the information, a second plane of the private army was on the flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg. This turned around and landed at Ostafjevo Airport south of Moscow.

Exactly two months ago to the day, Prigozhin (62) mutinied with his private army Wagner against the Russian leadership, although the background to these events is still unclear to this day. During the advance on Moscow, the mutineers demanded that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov be replaced. But Prigozhin also attacked President Vladimir Putin himself. The Kremlin chief called Prigozhin a traitor. The mutiny ended with the Wagner boss and thousands of his gunmen being able to go to Belarus.

Prisoners recruited for war service

The group of mercenaries he had built up first carried out unofficial special assignments for Russia in Syria and later also in several African countries. In the war of aggression against Ukraine, Prigozhin recruited prisoners from Russian prisons. The force suffered heavy losses in the fighting for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Prigozhin accused the regular military leadership of incompetence and corruption.

Prigozhin was in prison himself and later made a career as purveyor to the Kremlin, hence his nickname "Putin's cook". He is also said to have been the businessman behind the troll factories in St. Petersburg, which tried to influence western countries via social media. The mercenary leader reported last Monday with a video allegedly from Africa.

US President Joe Biden was unsurprised by the plane crash. He didn't know exactly what happened, but he wasn't surprised, Biden said on Wednesday while on vacation in the US state of California. When asked by reporters if he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the crash, Biden said, "There's not much that's happening in Russia that Putin isn't behind." But he doesn't know enough to answer that.

"Putin does not forgive anyone his own fear"

Prigozhin's death was also foreseeable for the adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, Mykhailo Podoliak. "Prigozhin signed his own death warrant the moment he stopped 200 kilometers from Moscow," Podoliak told the "Bild" newspaper. "The Prigozhin uprising in June really frightened Putin" and was bound to have consequences in the foreseeable future, because "Putin doesn't forgive anyone his own fears."

If the thesis is confirmed that the crash of the plane with Prigozhin on board was due to a murder plot, it would be a "demonstrative elimination" and "a direct signal to the elites (...) that the brutal murders of the " own people" in Russia". In Podoljak's view, Moscow would have sent a signal to its own army "that there really are no heroes there and that any disloyalty will be punished with death."

The FDP politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann was not surprised by the death news from Russia. "It was to be assumed that Prigozhin would pay for his attack on Putin with his life: a devil who gets involved with the devil," said the chairwoman of the defense committee in the Bundestag to the editorial network Germany. "But it also shows that Putin and his henchmen in the Kremlin are obviously very nervous."