- Hans Weber
- December 4, 2023
Speculations Arise on Putin’s Involvement in Plane Crash Carrying Wagner Group Head, Yevgeny Prigozhin
Recent developments have ignited speculations surrounding whether Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the Russian military to shoot down a plane carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the controversial mercenary organization Wagner Group. The crash, which occurred in the Tver region of Russia, has prompted investigations into the possibility of deliberate targeting.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based organization, has spotlighted these suspicions in its daily report. The report suggests that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, head of the Russian armed forces’ general staff, would likely not have taken such action without explicit directives from President Putin himself.
Analysts propose that Putin’s motive may have been to distance Prigozhin from his leadership role within the Wagner Group to prevent his transformation into a martyr. This theory gains traction as several Wagner Group commanders shifted to Redut, a private military company directly linked to the Russian Ministry of Defence. Additionally, financial troubles within the Wagner Group reportedly caused a loss of trust among mercenaries, eroding Prigozhin’s authority.
Two Theories Emerge: The ISW report outlines two primary theories. First, it suggests that Prigozhin might have violated an agreement between Putin and Belarusian President Lukashenko, which mandated a substantial reduction in Wagner Group activities. Alleged videos of Prigozhin recruiting mercenaries in Africa clashed with this accord, potentially crossing a metaphorical “red line.”
The second theory proposes that Putin could have been contemplating Prigozhin’s removal for some time, and the plane crash might have been an “accidental” outcome. However, this theory is met with skepticism due to the timing of the dismissal of air force chief Sergei Surovikin, who had ties to the Wagner Group.
Symbolic Implications: Experts speculate that Putin’s potential involvement in the plane crash may symbolize his reaffirmation of authority and a means of retribution for the embarrassment caused by the Wagner Group’s previous attempted coup. Prigozhin’s challenge to high-ranking Russian military officials during the coup raised concerns, prompting Putin to make a statement through this incident.
Reports from sources including the Russian-language BBC and the VCH-OGPU wire service suggest preliminary identifications of the bodies of Prigozhin and Utkin, with DNA verification ongoing. Fragments of the aircraft were discovered near Kuzhenkino, about two kilometers from the crash site. Local accounts mentioned two “flashes” of air defense and “inversion” trails in the sky during the time of the shoot-down, adding further complexity to the ongoing investigations.
Article by Prague Forum