US President Joe Biden responded to reports of the plane crash involving Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Russian private military company Wagner Group. Biden expressed his lack of surprise at the incident, suggesting that there is little that occurs in Russia without the influence of President Vladimir Putin. He stated, “There is not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not behind, but I don’t know enough to know the answer.”
"It is obvious that Putin does not forgive anyone for his own bestial terror. Exactly the one that nullified him in June 2023. And he was waiting for the moment," said Mykhailo Podolyak, Advisor to the Head of the President's Office, about Prigozhin's death. https://t.co/uD9HXpKX0s
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) August 23, 2023
The Russian Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that Prigozhin and Wagner Commander Dmitry Utkin were on board the crashed plane. However, there is no confirmation that Prigozhin was physically on the plane.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak interpreted the incident as a signal from Putin to Russia’s elites ahead of the 2024 elections. He tweeted, “The demonstrative elimination of Prigozhin and the Wagner command two months after the coup attempt is a signal from Putin to Russia’s elites… ‘Beware! Disloyalty equals death.'”
British lawmaker Alicia Kearns, chair of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, highlighted the swift confirmation by the Russian government about Prigozhin’s presence on the crashed plane. She suggested that reports of Russian Air Defense possibly shooting down the plane indicate a strong message from Putin.
Pavel Luzin, an expert with the Center for European Policy Analysis, commented on the implications of the incident. He noted that regardless of whether Prigozhin was killed on Putin’s orders or due to inter-agency clashes within the Russian elite, the event underscores growing contradictions and lack of unity within the Russian leadership.
Yevgeny Prigozhin had previously led a mutiny against Russia’s top army brass in June, an action that President Putin claimed could have pushed Russia into civil war.
The incident has triggered international speculation and reactions, shedding light on the dynamics of Russia’s political landscape and the complex relationships within its leadership circles.