The reported fiery death in a plane crash of Putin’s former chef turned head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been described as a possible act of revenge and a “dish best served cold”.
Sky’s International Affairs Editor Dominic Waghorn explained Prigozhin’s alleged death could be traced back to his actions in the June revolt by his soldiers.
Unhappy with supply problems for his men in Ukraine, the Wagner chief became increasingly incensed posting videos directly threatening the Russian high command, but not directly challenging Vladimir Putin himself.
In chaotic scenes Wagner soldiers staged what Prigozhin called a “march of justice” towards Moscow on June 23 and reached within 123 miles of the capital.
Putin first denounced the rebellion as “treason” and a “stab in the back” and vowed to punish its perpetrators.
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But just as quickly as it started the apparent coup attempt disbanded with Prigozhin going into exile in Belarus. His whereabouts since that time have remained vague, with only sporadic pictures and video emerging.
On Wednesday Russia’s civil aviation agency said that Prigozhin and six top figures were on a business jet that crashed soon after taking off from Moscow, with a crew of three.
Rescuers quickly found all 10 bodies, and Russian media cited sources in Prigozhin’s Wagner company who confirmed his death. The BBC reports locals heard two bangs before the aircraft plummeted to its doom.
Writing about the incident Sky’s Dominic Waghorn said the death of Prigozhin, who once served as Putin’s chef and food taster, could be traced back to his role in the June uprising.
He wrote: “One of the most striking images of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed mutiny was the sight of a plane shot down by his forces plummeting to Earth.
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“There was a grisly symmetry between that footage and the spectacle yesterday of the plane tumbling through the sky north of Moscow with him on board, or so we are told. That may well have been the intention.
“When it came to the man they called Putin’s chef, revenge for the Russian president was indeed a dish best served cold, two months after the act that warranted it.”
Mr Waghorn said whether Putin planned the apparent hit on Prigozhin or not, the message was clear that “treason does not pay” and that “Putin has never tolerated traitors”.
Western officials have long expected Putin to go after Prigozhin, despite promising to drop charges in a deal that ended the June 23-24 mutiny.
US President Joe Biden said of the plane crash: “I don’t know for a fact what happened but I’m not surprised. There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind.”
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