Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences for the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash on August 24. Mr. Prigozhin recently staged an attempted rebellion against Putin, which observers say humiliated the Russian leader. Prigozhin was the leader of Wagner, a mercenary group that fought against Ukraine on Russia’s behalf.
Mr. Putin made the remarks during a meeting with Denis Pushilin, leader of a pro-Russian Ukrainian separatist group. He paid tribute to Wagner officials whom he said he fought alongside Russia against the “neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine.” The President added that he had known Mr. Prigozhin for many years before describing him as a talented person and a talented businessman but one who had made “serious mistakes in life.”
The President did not acknowledge the global speculation, and indeed assumption, that it was he who ordered Prigozhin’s death in retaliation for his actions in June. The Wagner leader became vocally critical of the Kremlin that month, mainly due to a lack of decent equipment and his refusal to subordinate his own troops to Russian state soldiers. He consequently spoke out against Putin and, with his forces, took control of the city of Rostov-on-the-Don.
Prigozhin’s soldiers began to march on Moscow in what analysts described as the most severe threat to a Russian leader since the 1980s. The troops were within 300 miles of the Russian capital when the march stopped, and confrontation was avoided. Some suggested that Putin assured Prigozhin that his life would be spared if he ended his rebellion immediately.
The White House appeared to agree with the assumption that Putin ordered Prigozhin’s death at a press conference on August 29. Reporters asked Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre if the President believes Putin was responsible and she replied, “It seems pretty evident what happened here.” She added that President Biden is clear in his belief that very little happens in Russia that Putin has not given permission for.