(RepublicanDaily.org) – When Yevgeny Prigozhin, the brutal boss of mercenary group Wagner, staged a mutiny a few months ago – later calling it off after Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko stepped in to mediate – many speculated that the story was far from over. There would be serious repercussions to come.
At a news conference in Helsinki a few days after Wagner forces moved to Belarus and Prigozhin walked free as part of the deal with Russia, President Joe Biden wisecracked about the possibility of an assassination attempt against the Wagner boss.
“If I were he, I’d be careful what I ate; I’d keep my eye on my menu,” the president said.
A plane carrying Prigozhin and close confidant and Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin crashed recently, killing all on board. According to incomplete intelligence gathered by U.S. assets, the plane appeared to be sabotaged by a bomb or some sort of explosive device. Other reports say that the aircraft the Prigozhin was on was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. U.S. officials have contradicted that claim, saying that there was no indication that the plane was downed by a antiaircraft missile, based on the lack of notification from infrared sensors from satellites, which can detect when such armaments are used.
But the initial consensus among U.S. officials seems to be that the plane crash was not an accident.
“(I)t is likely Prigozhin was killed,” Pentagon spokesperson and Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said at a press briefing.
Russian authorities have acknowledged the crash and said that they are investigating the incident. They also vehemently denied being involved in the crash, calling assassination speculations “lies.” Russian President Vladimir Putin even issued remarks about the incident, describing his one-time ally a “talented man” who “made mistakes.”
British intelligence, on the other hand, said that “there is not yet definitive proof” that Prigozhin was on board the aircraft, but added that it was “highly likely” that the Wagner boss is “indeed dead.”
Prigozhin’s death is likely to cause some destabilization within the Wagner group, which while supported by the Russian government, is a private paramilitary group. Its leadership is also kept tightly under wraps, so the future of the group is up in the air at this point.
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