President Vladimir Putin’s regime has publicly acknowledged that the mercenary warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin may have been assassinated.
Prigozhin publicly criticized Putin’s handling of the Ukrainian offensive, which he was tasked to lead.
In June, after pleas for more troops, and better equipment and intelligence, Prigozhin pulled his troops and began a march toward Moscow.
Behind-the-scenes negotiations averted a confrontation with alarmed authorities in Moscow. Many were surprised at the time that Prigozhin was allowed to return home without suffering harsh disciplinary measures by Putin’s regime.
On August 23, a private jet traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg, carrying Prigozhin and 10 associates, mysteriously crashed near the Tver region in Russia.
Prigozhin, the Wagner Group leader, and his second-in-command Dmitry Utkin were reportedly killed in the crash.
Russian authorities immediately denied complicity in any wrongdoing, stating there was no immediate reason to suspect foul play.
As allegations of assassination mounted, the Kremlin rejected the assertions that a vindictive Putin ordered Prigozhin’s death, calling the notion an “absolute lie.”
A preliminary U.S. intelligence assessment determined the plane experienced an intentional internal explosion.
The White House reported the Kremlin was likely involved in Prigozhin’s death.
Conflicting reports and mounting circumstantial evidence point to an intentional downing of the jet — likely by Russian authorities.
When pressed on the need for an international investigation to ensure transparency, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “First of all, the investigation is underway, the Investigative Committee is engaged in this. In this case, there can be no talk of any international aspect.”
Yielding to the calls for an investigation, on Wednesday, Russian authorities acknowledged the possibility that Prigozhin’s plane was downed intentionally.
The New York Post reported that Peskov said that “different versions” of what happened are being investigated.
“It is obvious that different versions are being considered, including the version — you know what we are talking about — let’s say, a deliberate wrongdoing,” Peskov said.
Notably, the Kremlin urged reporters to withhold comment until the Russian Investigative Committee completed their report. The Kremlin said there would not be an international investigation into the crash.
Putin did not attend Prigozhin’s funeral in St. Petersburg but said of the warlord, “He was a man with a difficult fate, and he made serious mistakes in life.”
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