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‘This was done purely in Putin’s interests’ The first media reactions to the plane crash that almost certainly killed Yevgeny Prigozhin
Exactly two months after Yevgeny Prigozhin led an armed insurrection, occupying the Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, his private jet crashed while flying over Russia’s Tver region en route to St. Petersburg. The 10 people onboard, including three crew members, have all been killed. Prigozhin himself was on the passenger list (and likely onboard), though some speculate he might have switched planes just before departure. Here are the first media reactions to the likely demise of Russia’s most notorious mercenary leader.
Advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs
Regardless of Prigozhin flying alone or together with Utkin, it’s obvious that he was eliminated by Putin, who wasn’t about to forgive his betrayal, or the fear and humiliation caused to him by his former chef during the insurrection.
Whether the plane was downed by the Russian air defense or blown up from the inside, or just had a technical malfunction, it’s clear this was done purely in Putin’s interests. Colonel-generals Surovikin and Mezentsev, who sided with Prigozhin’s coup, should get ready for what’s next!
Bulgarian journalist, Bellingcat’s lead Russia investigator
It looks like it can be assumed with a good deal of certainty that Prigozhin was onboard the plane. Several sources who served in Wagner Group said that [Prigozhin] was part of a nine-person delegation coming back from Mali, where he’d tried to stop the GRU from pushing Wagner Group out of the country and Africa at large. The delegation was on its way back, having previously stopped in Belarus.
Investigative journalist, frequent writer on Prigozhin
All I can say about Prigozhin so far is that he really did fly today from Africa to Russia, together with the entire Wagner Group command. Some say “it would be a miracle if he turned out to be on the other plane.”
According to my sources, Prigozhin had been onboard after all.
This is a perfectly clear signal to all the [Russian] elites — to anyone who had any heretical thoughts, about the progress of the special military operation or anything at all.
Russian military expert
If the aircraft had been downed by air defense systems, we would have seen a trail of smoke in the videos, and I haven’t yet seen a trail. If eyewitnesses didn’t see an ascending missile with a trail behind it, the air-defense version of events is in question. If a plane falls the way it did, it suggests an explosion onboard or something else that we might call an act of terrorism.
If a plane falls in the chaotic manner we see in the video, this means that its controls have failed completely and its yokes aren’t working. What happened is complete control system failure, which can result from an explosion inside the plane, as would make sense.
Journalist, former editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow radio
All business jets are carefully inspected before boarding. If a passenger doesn’t show up, this is marked on a special list. In addition, the VIP terminal of Vnukovo-3 is equipped with cameras, so you can see who is leaving the terminal and entering the airfield. Of course, when two planes are leaving at once, passengers can trade places without any record of it.
The next-to-last person I would feel sorry for is Yevgeny Prigozhin. He had plans for me, but life seems to have decided otherwise. Still, what we see is yet another extrajudicial execution. If this were a normal state instead of a Putin-run dive bar, [Prigozhin’s] insurrection would have led to a court trial, or else to pardon, but not to extra-judicial killing, especially in plain sight. But for a criminal gang, this is perfectly normal behavior. Because devil knows what [Prigozhin] could have said in court.
Russian political scientist
One of the techniques of punishment in a dictatorship is to bring your enemy close just before eliminating him, or at least to pretend that everyone has made up and the past has been forgotten. In mafia movies, warring gangs and their bosses get together only to have one group shoot the other out of a cake.
Russian political scientist
A burning plane is a great cover for grabbing one of those many spare passports and vanishing for good. The raven won’t piece the bones together. Gone without a trace. Quel roman que ma vie.
RT chief executive
One of the possibilities being debated is a staged crash. Personally, I prefer the more obvious version of events.
War blogger associated with Prigozhin
Prigozhin’s murder will have catastrophic consequences. The people who ordered it don’t understand the army’s mood and the state of its morale.
State Duma deputy from the United Russia party
This is an act of terrorism in the Russian sky. It must be investigated, and those responsible must be punished.
Novelist, right-wing politician
I won’t believe this for as long as I can. These fuckers are having a party, a fucking party. I’m fed up with nine years of this partying. Zhenya, Yevgeny Viktorovich! — live a bit longer, will you.
Pro-Kremlin political commentator
It’s definitely Ukraine that killed Prigozhin. For Putin, Prigozhin was no longer a problem. Nor for Shoigu. Senior people don’t bother with revenge, they have too many real problems and real enemies. This is a Ukrainian terrorist operation on the eve of their Independence Day.
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