In a shocking turn of events, a private plane crashed on Wednesday, August 23, 2023, claiming the lives of all 10 passengers on board, including Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner group Chief and often referred to as “Putin’s chef”. The crash comes just two months after Prigozhin’s audacious attempt to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority, marking one of the boldest power struggles in recent memory. With the plane’s wreckage scattered near Moscow, speculation is rife about the circumstances surrounding the crash.
Prigozhin – The Wagner Group Chief
The Wagner group, initially formed in 2014, has been at the center of controversial operations both within and beyond Russia’s borders. The group, led by Prigozhin, a former convict, chef and hot dog salesman and a figure with a chequered past, gained notoriety for its actions in Ukraine, where it managed to overshadow the performance of the regular Russian army. The group’s ruthlessness and tactics involving convicts recruited as cannon fodder raised eyebrows and drew criticism from human rights organizations.
Prigozhin, despite his questionable background, had garnered a following of admirers within the ranks of his Wagner mercenaries. However, his bold move on June 23 to lead a march on Moscow was a game-changer. While he refrained from explicitly naming Putin, Prigozhin publicly criticized Russia’s reasons for invading Ukraine, accusing the leadership of deception and mismanagement. The Kremlin, furious with this act of defiance, labeled his march a betrayal.
The Mysterious Plane Crash
The crash of the private plane, carrying Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, another key figure in Wagner’s operations, is raising eyebrows worldwide. The crash not only eliminates a figurehead who was viewed as both useful and potentially threatening to the Russian establishment, but it also sets off alarm bells about the extent of power struggles within the country.
Although President Putin was delivering a speech during the time of the crash, he made no mention of the incident. This silence is deafening, leaving observers to wonder about the Kremlin’s potential involvement or complicity. Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, expressed a lack of surprise at the crash, hinting at their skepticism about unexpected events in Russia not having ties to Putin’s influence.
A Ukrainian presidential aide suggested that the plane crash might be a calculated message to Russia’s elites, a grim reminder of the consequences of disloyalty, especially in the lead-up to the 2024 elections. This notion resonates with Russia’s history of dealing with dissenting voices, often resorting to mysterious and lethal means.
Vladimir Putin does not forgive traitors
Prigozhin’s death adds another layer of intrigue to the long list of incidents involving individuals who have clashed with the Russian establishment. From Alexander Litvinenko’s radioactive poisoning to the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, a recurring pattern emerges of perceived threats meeting untimely and often deadly fates.
The demise of Prigozhin underscores the high-stakes power dynamics within Russia. A man who once seemed untouchable due to his utility to the Kremlin has fallen victim to the very system he operated in. As investigations into the crash unfold, the world watches wondering whether this incident will be remembered as another dark chapter in Russia’s history of covert power struggles.