“A talented man” but “with a difficult destiny, who has made serious mistakes in life“. With what seems like an epitaph, Vladimir Putin writes the final word on the life of Yevgeny Prigozhin, after a 24-hour silence on the crash of the jet in which the head of Wagner lost his life yesterday together with military commander Dmitry Utkin. No official confirmation of Prigozhin’s presence on the plane, whose 10 occupants died. “Preliminary data suggests that there were Wagner men on board,” the Russian president simply said. But there now seems to be little doubt about the exit of the founder of the military company, and of his own creation, to whom Putin reserved the honor of arms, recognizing the “significant contribution to our common cause of the fight against the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine “.
The plane on which Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was traveling was probably caused by an explosion on board the aircraft caused by a bomb or other device planted on the plane. The New York Times reports this, citing American and Western officials, according to whom President Vladimir Putin ordered the destruction of the plane in an attempt to kill Prigozhin. However, a definitive conclusion on what happened is not yet possible.
The tsar promised an investigation into what happened that “will get to the bottom”, while all kinds of hypotheses rage in the media and online, from missiles to bombs. But among opponents and foreign governments, particularly from enemy Ukraine, many are pointing the finger at Putin, suspected of having taken revenge on Prigozhin two months after Wagner’s attempted mutiny.
“We had nothing to do with it, everyone knows who is responsible,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Although from Johannesburg, where he attended the Brics summit, Russian Foreign Minister Serghei Lavrov urged us to “focus on the facts and not on the statements of the Western media”. Putin said Prigozhin had returned the day before from Africa and had had some meetings with authorities in Moscow. Shortly after 6pm local time (5pm in Italy) the plane crashed, which was heading from the capital to St. Petersburg. Among the ten victims, reported Rosaviatsia, the Federal Air Transport Agency, are Prigozhin and Utkin.
But the bodies of the plane’s occupants – seven passengers and three crew members – are charred and therefore cannot be recognized visually, wrote the Fontanka news site, citing one of the investigators at the crash site, near the village of Kuzhenkino, in the Tver region. Prigozhin’s body, therefore, would have been identified on the basis of “circumstantial evidence”, awaiting confirmation from the DNA test. Among this evidence, according to the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel, is the fact that one of the bodies is missing a phalanx of a finger. As in Prigozhin. Another, reported Al Jazeera television, citing a Wagner source, is that the company founder’s cell phone was found next to one of the bodies. Wagner and her supporters, however, no longer have any doubts about Prigozhin’s death. The private military group has launched an appeal to its militiamen not to do “anything stupid” and await instructions from the commanders. While Prigozhin’s admirers continue to bring flowers in front of the company’s headquarters in St. Petersburg and headquarters in other cities. Like in Novosibirsk, Siberia, where a video shows a militiaman in camouflage overalls and his face covered kneeling crying in front of an improvised altar.
As for the dynamics, the international media report conflicting opinions also regarding the American administration. Intelligence sources cited by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal say they are convinced that Putin himself ordered the plane to be destroyed and that the jet crashed due to a bomb on board or some other form of sabotage. A hypothesis also put forward by the Russian Telegram newspaper Shot, according to which investigators hypothesize that the bomb was placed in the trolley compartment. According to two American executives quoted by Reuters, however, Washington would be inclined to embrace the thesis of Gray Zone, a Telegram channel close to Wagner, according to which the plane was shot down by surface-to-air missiles coming from Russian territory. In particular, says former Russian MP Ilya Ponomaryov, who has been resident in Ukraine for years and an opponent of Putin, the jet would have been hit by two missiles from the S-300 anti-aircraft system.