Russian President Vladimir Putin has commented on the unexpected death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Putin expressed condolences to Prigozhin’s friends and family but is widely thought to have played a role in the mercenary warlord’s demise.
Putin shared his comments during a Thursday meeting with Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a Russian-aligned Ukrainian state.
Putin said: “First of all, I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of all the victims. It is always a tragedy.”
The Russian president added that preliminary information suggests that Wagner Group employees were also on board and he “would want to note that these people made a significant contribution to our common cause of fighting the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine.”
TASS news agency reported the business jet departed from St. Petersburg and went down in the Tver region.
“Prigozhin was listed among the passengers, according to the Federal Air Transport Agency,” read a post by TASS on Telegram. “An investigation into the crash of the Embraer aircraft has been launched, the department noted.”
Fox News reported that many “media figures and government officials have speculated that Putin was behind the explosion.”
President Biden commented: “I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I am not surprised… Not much happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind. I don’t know enough to know the answer.”
Rebekah Koffler, a military intelligence analyst told Fox News Digital that reports by Russian state media should be viewed with skepticism.
“At this time, we lack independent confirmation whether the Russian media or the Federal Air Transport Agency reporting about Prigozhin’s death is credible,” she said.
Koffler added: “There could be many reasons why Moscow wants us to believe that Prigozhin is dead. If he indeed died in the plane crash, it’s probably a result of the assassination operation, ‘wet deeds’ in Russian tradecraft, conducted on Putin’s orders.”
“If Prigozhin is alive, the story could be a disinformation operation, intended to get Prigozhin back under cover to run clandestine operations in Africa and other places vital for Putin,” Koffler concluded.
Notably, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy denied any involvement in the alleged death of the Wagner warlord.
“We are not involved in this situation, that’s for sure,” Zelenskyy said on Thursday. “I think everyone is aware of who is involved.”
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