The apparent death of Wagner boss Prigozhin may be the stuff of second-rate thrillers, but it could pay off for the Kremlin | CNN (2023)

The apparent death of Wagner boss Prigozhin may be the stuff of second-rate thrillers, but it could pay off for the Kremlin | CNN (1)

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Why Russian experts believe Putin could be behind the plane crash

01:30 - source:CNN

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IYevgeny PrigozhinHis last chapter has indeed been written, and he lives while seemingly dying: violent, flamboyant, at the center of intrigue.

The truth is just beginning to emerge. The older Embraer business jet was registered to Wagner's mercenary boss on Wednesday afternoonfell from the sky, crashed between the villages of Kurhenkino and Kurhenkinsko in Tver Oblast, Russia. All 10 people on board died.

This was announced by the National Aviation Agency of RussiaPrigogine on board.

But it didn't take long for theories to start circulating on the Internet. Was the plane shot down? Or maybe a bomb was planted on the ship? Is Prigorzhin really dead? Leading Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov appears to have suggested the same, suggesting in a statement on Telegram that reports of the oligarch's death were premature.

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According to Russian state television Rossiya-24, Solovyov suggested that Ukrainians and their allies were "spreading disinformation" about the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Solovyov, known to be frivolous about facts, quickly changed his attitude. But the plot behind the accident and Prigorzhin's public confrontation with the Kremlin in June seemed plucked from a second-rate thriller.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin talks about 'making Africa freer' in unverified video shared online Telegram/WAGNER_svodki Video Russia expert: What the alleged time of Prigozhin's death could mean

After all, in the next few daysFailed March in MoscowRussian state television exposed Prigozhin's penchant for wigs,Camouflage and multiple passports, all found in one of his gangster-chic residences.

It is not entirely unusual for Prigorzhin, who ran the infamous "troll farm" and was involved in meddling in the 2016 presidential election, to fake the world by faking his own death. After all,Russian investigative agencyAccording to the report, Wagner bosses have reportedly hired at least one aide.

Sensational stuff, to be sure, but perhaps none more so than Prigozhin's own performance. After all, this man was fighting for better resources for his fighters in Ukraineby posting horrible picturesTheir fragmented bodies. He also went on a profanity-laced tirade against senior Russian military officials,They accused him of being a "fat cat", and sealed his reputation as a central cast villain.

But this speculation misses the point. In any case, Prigozhin is no longer a force in Russian politics. Batya - as some of his subordinates called him fatherly - left the building.

Who has a motive?

Russia's main law enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee, has launched a criminal investigation into the crash. The investigation was conducted in accordance with Article 263 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation - Violation of the rules of operation and safety of air traffic.

Letting a commission of inquiry run the show is hardly a promising development, at least when it comes to transparency in international aviation. Finally, law enforcement agencies have been front and center in prosecuting opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Waiting for an unbiased report of the investigative committee is like expecting Russian state television presenters to stop embracing Kremlin topics.

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A mural of mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group with the words: "Wagner Group - Russian Knights" is defaced with paint in Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. Darko Vojinovich/AP A spat between Russia's warlord and General Putin has broken out. started with a terrible PR campaign

Whether we understand the true cause of the accident or not, the ongoing investigation points to an important question: who would have the motive and means to get rid of Prigozhin and his top lieutenants?

For many observers, the easiest answer - but by no means the only one - is Putin.

Prigozhin's plane crash came about two months after Prigozhin and Wagner launched their rebellion, the biggest challenge to Putin's rule in more than two decades.

A few days after the uprising, a furious Putin made it clear that he considered Wagner's actions a betrayal. Although he did not mention Prigozhin by name, he accused the "organizers of the uprising" of betraying Russia itself.

It was a serious claim, but in the weeks following Wagner's rebellion, there was no swift retaliation from the Kremlin.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, commander of the Wagner Group military company, salutes the slain as he arrives for a funeral at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, April 8, 2023. Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky paid his last respects. Maxim Fomin, who went by his pseudonym, was killed on Sunday, April 2, while moderating a discussion at a riverside cafe in the historic center of St. Petersburg. Petersburg, the second largest city of Russia. AP/Documents Chief Wagner says Russia's military leader is 'sitting like a fat cat' and his troops are dying

Allegedly, the Wagner hunters were allowed to be transferred to neighboring Belarus under an agreement made by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Although Prigozhin kept himself aloof, he continued to appear in public,Warm reception by African officialsOn the sidelines of the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg and issued a statement about the coup in Niger.

But Prigozhin, despite his arrogance, may have remembered that revenge is the best act, however lukewarm, no matter how many enemies he has.

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"hard times"

If - and this is still a big guess - the Russian government has something to do with the fall of Embraer, this could add to the sense that Russia is entering a "time of trouble", as some commentators have in the case of the Wagner A. .rebellion as suggested. In Russia, the term refers to a period of lawlessness and a violent succession crisis in the early seventeenth century.

At the very least, the crash brought back unpleasant memories of the anarchic 1990s, when Russians suffered a failed and violent transition to a market economy and political assassinations made routine headlines.

Under Putin, the window-throwing incident became a sickeningly popular joke with the regime's tendencies.The opponent falls from the window. Is it possible to break the windows in some other way?

The mysterious plane crash was also a pattern in some high-profile cases in Russian politics.

Russian investigative journalist Artem Borovik died in 2000shortly after take offA passenger plane on its way to Kiev crashed after taking off from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. And General Alexander Lebed - former presidential candidate and district governor -Died in a helicopter crash in 2002, who defeats a prominent political candidate from the village.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin talks about how to make 'Africa freer' in unverified video shared online

so the question isWhich one is better-- who will benefit from Chief Wagner's death -- may also be of concern to political observers.

In an astute analysis of the aftermath of Wagner's failed coup, Wanda Philbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution argues that the Kremlin effectively reorganized some of Prigozhin's activities—or placed them under new management. The following - might help.

"Instead of liquidating Wagner's organization in Africa and the Middle East, Russian intelligence will clean up Wagner's structure to weaken connections with Prigogine and strengthen ties with the Kremlin."she wrote.

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"Such a reorganization would mimic Russian President Vladimir Putin's apparent preference for Russia and Ukraine's Wagner — placing some cadres under the Russian military, disarming others and allowing others to operate under existing semi-independence, but under new leadership and Prigozhin's powers minimized. "

So, from the Kremlin's point of view: if Prigozhin dies, long live the new Prigozhin.


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