Putin breaks silence on deadly crash that killed Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin

Flowers and patches bearing the logo of private mercenary group Wagner are seen at the makeshift memorial in front of the "PMC Wagner Centre" in Saint Petersburg, 24 August
Flowers and patches bearing the logo of private mercenary group Wagner are seen at the makeshift memorial in front of the "PMC Wagner Centre" in Saint Petersburg, 24 August Copyright AFP
By Joshua Askew
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Full coverage and analysis of the crash, it's aftermath and what happens next.


What we know so far

  • Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has been killed in a plane crash north of Moscow 
  • 10 bodies have been recovered from the crash site, including seven passengers and three crew
  • One of those killed is believed to be Dmitry Utkin, Wagner's co-founder
  • Speculation is rife over the incident. Russian state media say the aircraft caught fire upon hitting the ground. But the Wagner-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone claims it was shot down by the Russian military
  • An investigation has begun into the cause of the crash 
  • Neither the Kremlin nor the Russian Ministry of Defence have commented on Prigozhin's apparent death
  • Prigozhin led an abortive armed rebellion inside Russia earlier this year, marching on Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced it "treason" at the time 

That's the end of our live coverage of the crash of an aircraft carrying the boss of Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin. 

You can find more coverage and analysis of the reactions, aftermath and what comes next at our website www.euronews.com 


Putin: Prigozhin was a 'talented man' with a 'difficult destiny'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his condolences to the families of the ten people who were aboard a jet, including Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, which crashed near Moscow on Wednesday evening. 

Speaking at the Kremlin, Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the ten people aboard the jet, including mercenary head Yevgeny Prigozhin, who he described as a "talented man" with a "difficult destiny."

Putin made the remarks on Thursday while speaking with the Russian-installed leader of Ukraine’s partially-occupied Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, in a televised interview.

Putin also pledged to investigate the causes of the crash, which took place shortly after the plane took off from a Moscow airport, en route to St. Petersburg. (AP) 


Wagner's leader was the inevitable product of Putin's Russia

Yevgeny Prigozhin, with his frightening grimace, was the type of character who lived for bloody and chaotic times, wrote Aleksandar Dokić for Euronews View in May.

Dokić explored the way Russia's elites are made and how they tend to operate, looking at the shadowy origins of Wagner as a tool of plausible deniability for the Russian state, its leader's rise up the hierarchy and how Putin handles internal struggles. 

In the "shark tank" of modern Russia, he argues, "brazen criminal types like Prigozhin are the ones that thrive, as these are their natural surroundings."

Read the piece in full here


French FM jokes about death rate of Putin's inner circle 

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna reacted with irony on Thursday to the alleged death of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, saying "the death rate among those close to Putin is particularly high."

"It's a risky business," she told the AFP news agency, declining to comment further.



Prigozhin's death 'doesn't change much' for region - Lithuania

The presumed death of Wagner's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, will have little impact on regional security, the Lithuanian president said on Thursday, stressing that its mercenaries were still present in neighbouring Belarus.

"We really shouldn't think that Prigozhin's death should make us any calmer or that it somehow improves the security situation," said Gitanas Nauseda.

"[It] does not change much," he added. 

Lithuania, a small Baltic country on NATO's eastern flank, has warned of the risks posed by Wagner after its mercenaries reportedly relocated to Belarus in June.  

Fears of a Russian provocation on Lithuania and Poland's borders have since grown, with the two NATO members beefing up security on the frontier with Belarus. 

Echoing the Lithuanian president, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Wagner was now "under the direct supervision of Putin and his people", following Wednesday's incident.  

"Even more than before, or at least like today, it will be used as a tool of provocation, of blackmail... to destabilise the countries bordering Russia and Belarus", he added on Thursday.


A Russian serviceman inspects a part of a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.
People carry a body bag away from the wreckage of a crashed private jet, near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.
Russian servicemen inspect a part of a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

Plane crash should not come as a shock - analyst

The apparent death of the Wagner boss in Wednesday's plane crash marks just another turn in Putin's effort to shore himself up, an analyst has said, warning it won't change the disastrous trajectory of the Ukraine war.

"The Russians have a lot of form here," James Nixey, director of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at UK think tank Chatham House, wrote in a statement sent to Euronews. "Throughout Soviet and post-Soviet history there have been suspicious air crashes when rivals were a threat or became too popular. 

He cites the examples of Yuri Gagarin in 1968 and General Alexander Lebed (a one-time possible contender for the presidency) in 2002, who both died in mysterious circumstances in air incidents."

With the steady flow of assassinations (attempted and successful) and mysterious deaths that have blighted the Kremlin's opponents in recent years, the Kremlin's old reputation for ruthless political action remains justified. 

"Almost everybody inside and outside of Russia accepts this is just the Russian way of doing things," Nixey added. 

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