Prigozhin was on the plane that crashed: Russian media

Updated Aug 23, 2023, 6:32pm EDT
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Diego Mendoza/

Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group, was confirmed to be on a private jet that crashed in Russia’s Tver region, Russian state media reported, citing the country’s Federal Air Transport Agency. All 10 occupants of the plane were reported to have been killed.

There are conflicting reports about what caused the plane to crash, but some Wagner-linked Telegram groups and state news agency TASS report that the plane was shot down by Russian air defense. Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the crash.

Prigozhin’s suspected death comes exactly two months after his failed mutiny against Moscow. Dmitry Utkin, largely considered Wagner’s number two, was also reportedly on the plane.

The White House expressed little surprise at reports of Prigozhin’s suspected death and Putin’s alleged hand in it, with President Joe Biden recalling his previous remark of “I’d be careful what I rode in.”1 He added that “there’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind.” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said that if the reports of his death were confirmed “no one should be surprised.”2

Prigozhin was always doomed after his failed rebellion, because “Putin is the ultimate apostle of pay back”3 as CIA Director Bill Burns put it last month. Burns had predicted that it would be unlikely for Prigozhin to escape further retribution because for Putin, “revenge is a dish best served cold." Bellingcat’s Christo Grozev had also previously predicted that “in six months Prigozhin will either be dead or there will be a second coup.”4

Prigozhin’s demise will have minimal direct impact on the war in Ukraine, the Telegraph’s Dominic Nichols argues, because Russia is now on the defensive and no longer requires Wagner’s mercenaries as “shock troops.”5 However, it will have a “huge” effect on the Russian oligarchs, the one group that could potentially unseat Putin, he writes. Putin’s alleged role in Prigozhin’s death would reaffirm the Russian leader's “strongman” image and make “his enemies scared.”

“Putin must feel confident that he has someone to come in and take [Prigozhin’s] place,”6 former U.S. Army major and military analyst Mike Lyons told CBS News. Lyons compared Prigozhin to a mafia family’s “earner” which is why Putin did not target him immediately. It was only after Putin was confident that Prigozhin’s second-in-command, Utkin, would not take Prigozhin’s place, that the Russian president made his alleged move.


CBS News, The ramifications of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin's supposed death via Youtube