And is he even dead? A plane purportedly carrying Wagner PMC’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, went down outside Moscow amid conflicting reports of a bomb in a wine crate onboard and surface-to-air missiles being fired. Adding mystery to the event is that Prigozhin has faked his death before using a plane crash. But if Prigozhin was murdered, who authorized it? In The Spectator, Paul Wood examines some of the possibilities, writing:
As the first reports came in that Yevgeny Prigozhin had been killed, I spoke to Marat Gabidullin, who was a senior commander in Prigozhin’s mercenary army and for a time his personal assistant for military affairs. Gabidiullin is living in exile in France and well known as a bitter critic of Prigozhin — he was forced to change addresses regularly, worried that Prigozhin would send someone to kill him. In the past, he described his old boss as brutal, greedy, smart, dangerous, and willing to sacrifice his men by the thousand for profit and power. But now he’s almost wistful at the thought of Prigozhin’s passing. He told me that one of Russia’s “greats” had been brought down. “It’s the end of an era and the beginning of the time of the small people.”
We haven’t seen the body yet but it seems unlikely that Prigozhin will pop up somewhere, wearing one of the absurd wigs and false beards he had on in photographs supposedly found at his St. Petersburg mansion by the Russian security services. So, assuming Prigozhin has met the violent end widely predicted for him after he ordered tanks to roll on Moscow in June, the question now is who gave the order: Vladimir Putin himself, or one of Prigozhin’s many rivals at court? To me, this seemed like a very public execution, something that could only have been ordered by Putin, designed to send a message about what happens to anyone rash enough to challenge him. But Gabidullin isn’t so sure.
He thought this was the work of Sergei Shoigu, the defense minister. He said that Russian power in the world had been damaged as a result of Prigozhin’s killing, especially in Africa. No one could organize there like him. He didn’t think Putin would want this outcome. “This is a personal initiative of Shoigu… This was not Putin’s decision.” Certainly, Prigozhin had fought a public, and increasingly personal, battle with Shoigu, accusing him of deliberately failing to supply Wagner with ammunition in Ukraine. As the bodies of Wagner fighters piled up, Prigozhin gave an interview attacking Shoigu’s family, saying his son-in-law — a critic of the war in Ukraine — should be “raped” or “given the sledgehammer.”
In fact, Prigozhin had a long list of enemies. In the interview he gave about Shoigu, he also attacked Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, and other members of “the Moscow elites” for sending their children abroad while ordinary Russians sent theirs to fight. “You sons of bitches, gather up your offspring and send them to war.” I was told by a former MI6 officer, now a private consultant on Russia, that even before the mutiny two months ago, there were many plots to kill Prigozhin by a number of his rivals, acting together or separately.
Read more here.
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