Yesterday, a private plane carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group, and 9 of his staff, crashed, with no survivors.
There are several interpretations of this. The first is that it was an accident. Accidents are always possible, but somehow I don’t think so.
The second interpretation is that Prigozhin’s political ambitions turned him into a very serious source of strife and contention in Russia, where he actually tried to take his private army to Moscow in order to try and pressure the government to basically put him in charge of the military. They shot down several aircraft and got some good men killed. Putin defused this very volatile situation very carefully, and I still don’t know what the fuck that was all about. The entire thing stinks of hidden games and double play. So, the second interpretation is that Prigozhin had further plans for his Wagner group that would further his political ambitions, unlike the rest of the Wagner soldiers who had no problem being absorbed in regular military forces, and Putin basically ordered the FSB to get rid of him, so they shot down or sabotaged his plane, killing him and some of his inner staff. If this is the case, it’s a huge exception from the way Putin usually deals with bad actors who threaten Russia’s political stability; he usually publishes discrediting facts about them, finds some conventional crime they committed, has them arrested, tried and put in prison. The idea that Putin kills his political opponents is nonsense only the Westerners believe in. He’s a legalist, and has powerful legal instruments at his disposal, and he’s very proficient not only in real Judo, but also in political Judo. He doesn’t use blunt instruments if there are alternatives. However, Prigozhin might actually be an exception, because if true things are published about his likely crimes (have in mind that he had two private jets in the air at the time, which means he was working with incredible amounts of money that didn’t really go into the armament and salaries of Wagner soldiers), this might put a bad light on the Wagner group, whose soldiers are seen in a positive light in Russia, and this would create unnecessary internal strife that Putin doesn’t need, and Prigozhin already abused this fact. Taking him out and then absorbing his private army into the regular armed forces might have been desirable. However, this doesn’t mean that it was actually done. It only means nobody will cry over his fate very much.
The third possibility is that he was taken out by the same Ukrainian/CIA assets that have already been killing “undesirables” in Russia, and the Ukrainians already put him on their list. This is certainly a possibility, because it fits the modus operandi of Ukrainian intelligence – they use classic terrorist acts with bombs and don’t really care about collateral damage. They hate, they kill those whom they hate, and intimidate the rest.
To be honest, I initially thought the second option was the most likely one, but now I am rather partial to the third one. It’s interesting that there are still no official statements from the Russian government, which would mean that they don’t know how to handle this – they don’t have a prepared story to run, and don’t know whether to go with “good riddance” or “they killed our hero and now there’s going to be hell to pay”. I am certain that the black boxes from the airplane are being analysed and if the crash was due to an explosion on board or a missile strike, things are going to get very interesting very quickly. However, if the crash was due to a technical malfunction and the Ukrainians don’t admit they caused it, the entire thing will be shrugged off, because Prigozhin was an unbalanced person on an ego trip and nobody will miss him.
I’ve seen a video of the crash and it’s consistent with either a missile strike or an explosive device.