Not much happens in Russia that Putin is not behind, says Biden on plane crash death of Wagner militia chief

Russia has been described famously as a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. That also goes for the fate of Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of Russia’s private Wagner militia, who appears to have died in a plane crash — ‘appears to have died’ because nobody knows for sure if the friend-turned-foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin has actually perished.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of Russia’s private Wagner militia, reportedly died in a plane crash on August 23 evening, exactly two months after he led a revolt against the Russian defence establishment. Photo courtesy: X/@jacksonhinklle

President of the United States Joe Biden, commenting to the media after a workout session, said, “I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised…. There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind. But I don’t know enough to know the answer.”

According to reports from Russia emerging early this morning, Prigozhin had died in a plane crash last evening. He was supposed to be among the 10 people onboard a private plane that crashed in the Tver region, close to the capital city of Moscow.

The Guardian reported: “Rosaviatsia, the Russian aviation authority, said Prigozhin and senior Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin were among 10 people travelling on the Embraer business jet that crashed on Wednesday evening.”

There is worldwide political speculation on whether this was just an accident or a punishment devised by the Kremlin. Retribution as a motive is being seriously considered.

Prigozhin, one of main allies of Putin in the military invasion of Ukraine, fell spectacularly out of favour just two months ago, on June 23, after leading a revolt against the Russian establishment.

Yevgeny Prigozhin had been personally very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Also, Wagner was a key ally of the Russian military in the invasion of Ukraine, until the private militia revolted. Photo courtesy: X/@MoyaProf

At that time, the Wagner militia chief said that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had misled Putin and unleashed the Ukraine conflict for personal gains.

Putin, who normally speaks little, gave stern warnings about dire consequences for the rebels in a televised address. The Wagner revolt ended quickly, within about 24 hours, and Prigozhin was supposed to have been packed off to Belarus, an ally of Russia.

Also read: Putin prevails in Russia; Wagner militia’s mutiny ends as chief Prigozhin leaves for Belarus
Also read: Putin addresses Russia after mutiny by ally-turned-foe Wagner militia, speaks of ‘inescapable punishment’ for betrayal
Also read: Putin faces mutiny as mercenary fighter group Wagner, his Ukraine war ally, now threatens Russia

Nonetheless, the West remained upbeat about the revolt, seeing it as a challenge to Putin’s iron-clad authority. The death of Prigozhin — if he is dead — puts paid to any such armed revolt, at least for now.

Reacting to reports of the plane crash, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said that it was “a signal from Putin to Russia’s elites ahead of the 2024 elections. ‘Beware! Disloyalty equals death’.”