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17 June, 2024
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Prigozhin presumed dead after crash

Many were not surprised after his mutiny against Putin

Source: BBC

People here were shocked this summer after drones attacked the center of Moscow on several occasions, causing explosions and damage to buildings.

Then, the Russian rouble took an unexpected tumble - briefly tipping the dollar rate to over 100 roubles.

Add to that, a failed mission to the Moon: Russia's 'Luna-25' lander was lost in space, destroyed as it collided with the lunar surface last week.

But today, as the news broke that Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane had fallen out of the sky, crashing in a fireball in Russia's Tver Region, most people were far from shocked. In fact, most Russians were probably surprised it hadn't happened sooner.

Speculation had been swirling for weeks in Russia about exactly what fate awaited Yevgeny Prigozhin. Exactly two months ago, the Wagner boss launched his brief mutiny.

His mercenaries seized a major Russian city and even marched on Moscow. After the rebellion was called off, many thought Prigozhin's days were numbered. After all, the mutiny was a significant humiliation for the Kremlin, and President Putin isn't the kind of man to forgive and forget.

Around an hour after the crash, the Russian Federal Aviation Agency Rosaviatsiya released a statement confirming that Yevgeny Prigozhin's name was on the passenger manifest.

That is unusually quick for Rosaviatsiya: the agency is usually much slower to respond to such incidents. That raised eyebrows here.

Russian state TV is keeping reporting of the incident to a minimum, quoting government officials with no comment. In its main evening news bulletin, Kremlin-controlled Channel One dedicated just 30 seconds to the story.

It is a well-known fact in Russia that state TV channels often wait until they receive official instructions regarding the tone of reporting.

As for the Wagner group itself, Telegram channels linked to the mercenaries have claimed that Prigozhin "was killed….by traitors of Russia". At the Wagner HQ in the city of St. Petersburg, a makeshift shrine has appeared. Images on Russian media show people bringing flowers and candles to the Wagner Centre.

Attention is now turning to what happened on board the flight. According to Russian media, investigators are looking into a number of possible causes, including "external actions."

Commenting on the incident, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said that the cause of the plane crash is not important - more significant is the message it sends to any other potential mutineers: "Everyone will see this as an act of retaliation and retribution…From Putin's perspective, as well as many among the security and military officials, Prigozhin's death should serve as a lesson."

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