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‘I had a feeling he’d come to a bad end’ Kremlin insiders react to the possible death of Yevgeny Prigozhin

Source: Meduza
PMC Wagner / Telegram / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

A private jet belonging to Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin crashed in Russia’s Tver region on Wednesday, August 23. Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency later reported that Prigozhin’s name was on the aircraft’s passenger list. According to Russian state media, at least seven bodies have been found at the crash site so far. Preliminary reports stated that there were at least 10 passengers on board, all of whom died in the crash. As of this writing, however, Prigozhin’s death or whereabouts have not been officially confirmed. To find out how Russia’s political elite are reacting to the possible death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Meduza special correspondent Andrey Pertsev spoke to his sources close to the Kremlin. Here’s what they said.

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane crashing “wasn’t very surprising,” a source close to Vladimir Putin’s administration told Meduza on Wednesday. “I had a feeling after the mutiny that he’d come to a bad end. [The Kremlin] doesn’t forgive such things,” this person said.

According to the same source, Prigozhin’s aborted mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, which took place exactly two months ago, led Putin to the conclusion that the Wagner Group boss was no longer a “reliable and manageable person.” 

“By all logic, an armed asset shouldn’t be in the hands of an unreliable person,” the source underscored.

In turn, a source close to the Moscow region’s leadership said that earlier in the day on Wednesday, not long before the crash, Prigozhin allegedly met with officials from the Moscow Mayor’s Office and the regional administration to discuss food supplies for public sector institutions. (Companies linked to Prigozhin have supplied food to various public institutions in Russia under government contracts for many years.)

Two of Meduza’s sources close to the Kremlin said they were surprised that Prigozhin had “learned nothing” after his failed mutiny and continued doing business in Russia. “He has a lot going on in Africa, he himself does business with the leadership of African states. So far, no one has interfered with this or forced him out. Why does he need school meal contracts here given the risks? He’s not a fool, he seemed to understand everything,” one of the sources said. 

According to this person, Prigozhin’s actions demonstrated that he wasn’t observing “niceties” and was continuing to work in Russia almost openly — despite the top leadership’s declaration after the June mutiny that he would “leave for Belarus.”

Meduza’s sources declined to comment on who might have been interested in a possible attempt on Prigozhin’s life. Prior to the June mutiny, Meduza’s sources close to the Kremlin did not exclude the possibility that the Russian security forces would “put a stop” to Prigozhin’s insubordination. 

However, sources close to Putin’s administration now believe that even if Prigozhin’s death is confirmed, it won’t seriously affect the domestic political situation in Russia. “He’s no longer on the radar of the [sociological services]. He was the hero of the moment,” one source said. 

Indeed, according to polling data from the independent Levada Center, Prigozhin no longer ranks among the top-10 politicians that Russians deem trustworthy. At the same time, one source pointed out that levels of support for Prigozhin (and reactions to his possible death) may differ among “the army and various detachments at the front” in Ukraine. 

Sources close to the Kremlin also did not rule out the possibility that Prigozhin may still be alive. “He’s a trickster, a troll. He has informants in various structures, so we have to wait,” one person said. 

At the same time, they stressed that if his death is confirmed, the Russian authorities will most likely shift the blame onto Ukraine’s intelligence services (as the Kremlin has done repeatedly in the past). “Of course the Ukrainians wanted to get to him,” one source said. “If drones are reaching the Kremlin and [Moscow] City, why couldn’t they get to Prigozhin?”

Read the latest updates

Prigozhin’s plane goes down Mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin listed as passenger in fatal jet crash two months after mutiny

Read the latest updates

Prigozhin’s plane goes down Mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin listed as passenger in fatal jet crash two months after mutiny

Story by Andrey Pertsev

Translation by Eilish Hart 

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