The Kremlin has publicly acknowledged the possibility of foul play in the tragic crash of the private Embraer jet carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin, a prominent mercenary leader.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov revealed that investigators were considering various scenarios, including the notion of a deliberate act, suggesting the potential for assassination.
However, Peskov cautioned that formal conclusions had not yet been reached.
The incident occurred on August 23 when the Embraer jet, en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg, crashed north of Moscow, resulting in the fatalities of all 10 individuals on board.
Among the victims were two other high-ranking figures from the Wagner mercenary group, Prigozhin’s security personnel, and the flight crew.
Although the cause of the crash remains uncertain, witnesses from nearby villages reported hearing an explosion before witnessing the plane’s descent.
The crash notably transpired exactly two months after Prigozhin’s seizure of control over Rostov, marking the initiation of a significant uprising that shook Russia’s political landscape.
Russia conveyed its decision not to initiate an international investigation into the crash to Brazil’s aircraft investigation authority.
Peskov addressed this matter, highlighting the ongoing involvement of the Russian Investigative Committee in the case and emphasizing the absence of an international aspect.
Russian President Vladimir Putin extended condolences to the victims’ families and acknowledged a long-standing acquaintance with Prigozhin, spanning back to the tumultuous 1990s.
He characterized Prigozhin as a talented entrepreneur despite acknowledging his significant life errors.
Amid speculations, the Kremlin rejected claims that Western sources had suggested Putin’s involvement in orchestrating Prigozhin’s demise as retribution. U.S. President Joe Biden hinted at Putin’s pervasive influence in Russia, stating his lack of surprise over the incident.
In response to Prigozhin’s demise, Putin mandated Wagner fighters to pledge allegiance to the Russian state, a move that Prigozhin had opposed due to his grievances with the defense ministry’s handling of the Ukraine conflict.
Prigozhin’s supporters commemorated him with floral tributes and poetic gestures, honoring his legacy as a fearless warrior.
Prigozhin had often boasted of his stature as a feared mercenary leader and possessed a reputation for ruthless actions in conflict zones.
While he achieved significant victories during the Ukraine war, including the capture of Bakhmut, Prigozhin grew disillusioned with perceived shortcomings in Putin’s military strategy, warning of potential losses in the conflict with Ukraine.