Ending all speculation about whether or not Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash near Moscow last evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed today that the private militia leader was, indeed, dead. Putin also said that Prigozhin had made “some serious mistakes” in his life.
The militia leader was killed exactly two months after he led an armed revolt against the Russian defence establishment on June 23, alleging that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had fed Putin misinformation that caused the conflict with Ukraine.
The sudden rebellion was seen by Putin as a betrayal of trust, as Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters had aided the Russian state military in the invasion of Ukraine, especially in Bakhmut. The June rebellion ended within 24 hours and Prigozhin left for Belarus. But the plane crash triggered speculation that the militia chief might have finally faced lethal retribution from Putin.
Latest reports suggest that American intelligence has found some clues that an explosion was caused “intentionally” onboard the plane carrying Prigozhin and his fellow militia leader Dmitry Utkin. Earlier today, US President Joe Biden said that very little happened in Russia that did not have Putin behind it.
The Russian president, however, offered his condolences to the families of the 10 people killed in the crash, and recalled his long association with the Wagner chief.
Putin said “[Prigozhin] was a man with a difficult fate. He made some serious mistakes in his life. He achieved the needed results both for himself and for a joint effort that I had asked him about during the last months.” This last part of the remark was a fairly obvious reference to the invasion of Ukraine.
Over the past two months, following the failed rebellion in Russia, Prigozhin was not entirely out of the public eye. The Wagner militia carried out its operations in several parts of Africa. Prigozhin posted a video recently, saying that Wagner was making Africa “even more free”. The very next day, the plane crash killed Prigozhin and Utkin.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a media conference that Ukraine had nothing to do with Prigozhin’s plane crash. He also said, “Everybody realises who has something to do with it.”