Prigozhin is dead, Putin: ‘A talented man but with a difficult fate’

The body was recognised by one of the company commanders. The Russian president, believed by all observers to be behind the plane crash, broke his silence and announced a thorough investigation into the downing of the jet that cost the Wagner chief his life

by Corinna Pindaro

Yevgeny Prigozhin is dead. His body was identified by one of the company’s commanders, the distinguishing mark leaving no doubt being the absence of a finger. This was reported by the Ukrainian media Unanian, also citing Russian Telegram channels close to the company.

The confirmation also comes from the Russian Federal Agency for Air Transport. On board the jet that was shot down 300 kilometres north of Moscow were Wagner founder Prigozhin, his right-hand man Commander Dmitry Utkin, another deputy of the Wagner Group, Valery Chekalov, and four other paramilitaries. A total of 10 people, whose bodies were ‘found and reassembled’, the emergency services explained.

In contrast, Putin distanced himself from the incident and for the first time broke his silence, promising ‘a thorough investigation into the plane crash’. “What is absolutely certain is that the investigative committee has already started a preliminary investigation into this incident, which will be continued and completed,” the Kremlin leader was quoted by Interfax as saying, adding, “Let’s see what the investigators will say in the near future, now technical and genetic tests are being carried out, it will take time.”

“He was a man with a difficult but talented destiny,” Putin added, stressing that his former loyalist had achieved “the results he needed” both “for himself” and “for the common cause, when I asked him to, as in recent months”.

In fact, however, the Russian president is widely believed to be the real instigator of the plane crash. “Nothing happens in Russia without Putin being behind it,” said US President Joe Biden. Ukrainian President Zelensky made it clear that Ukraine ‘had nothing to do’ with the incident but also indulged in a joke: ‘When we asked the countries of the world for planes to defend ourselves, we did not have this in mind but something else,’ he said.

One wonders what will happen now to the Wagner Group. According to Il Corriere della Sera, the Russian mercenaries will continue to operate in Libya, where they have been active since 2016, in support of the autonomous regime of General Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi as opposed to that in Tripoli. Of a different opinion is Repubblica, according to which the end of Wagner has now come. According to the newspaper, the killing of Prigozhin could be the end of mercenary operations in Africa and without clear and immediate indications the disbanded men may have no choice but to be absorbed by new groups.

Repubblica also provided an explanation as to why Prigozhin would have rushed to leave Africa. He intended to block the plan of Andrey Averyanov, deputy of the military services (Crane), who wants to replace Wagner with the creation of a new 20,000-strong brigade to be sent to the African continent.

(Associated Medias)- All rights reserved