War experts suspect Prigozhin’s plane crash could be the Kremlin’s ‘final step’ in eliminating Wagner’s independence – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

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War experts suspect Prigozhin’s plane crash could be the Kremlin’s ‘final step’ in eliminating Wagner’s independence

Emergency specialists carry a body bag near wreckages of the private jet linked to Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin at the crash site in the Tver region, Russia, August 24, 2023.

Reuters

War experts suspect Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane crash could be the Kremlin’s “final step” in ridding Wagner’s independence.
Prigozhin was presumed dead Wednesday after a Wagner-affiliated plane plummeted to the ground outside Moscow.
The Wagner Group founder recently staged a short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military. 

War analysts suspect that Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s apparent death in a plane crash outside Moscow could be the Kremlin’s “final step” in getting rid of the Russian paramilitary group’s independence. 

Prigozhin, the mercenary group’s founder who recently staged a short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military, was presumed dead on Wednesday after a Wagner-affiliated plane plummeted to the ground in Russia’s Tver region. 

In the aftermath, Russian state media reported that Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on the private business jet that went down. Russian state media reported that all 10 people on board the plane — three pilots and seven passengers, including Prigozhin’s right-hand man Dmitry Utkin — died in the crash.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington, DC-based think tank, said in an assessment published on Wednesday that Russia’s defense ministry and the Kremlin have been “destroying” Wagner and “weakening” Prigozhin’s authority ever since the group’s brief armed rebellion in June. 

The think tank referred to the plane crash as the “assassination of Wagner’s top leadership” and said it was “likely the final step to eliminate Wagner as an independent organization.”

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, records his video addresses in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Saturday, June 24, 2023.

Prigozhin Press Service via Associated Press

ISW, citing reports from Wagner and Russian insider sources, said that Russia’s defense ministry “recently began forming new” private military companies “to replace Wagner in Africa and the Middle East and started recruiting Wagner personnel.”

There has been long-standing suspicion Prigozhin could face revenge from Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin after the Wagner chief led the uprising against Russian military brass. 

CIA Director Bill Burns predicted last month that Putin would likely seek retaliation against Prigozhin over the rebellion. 

“Putin is someone who generally thinks that revenge is a dish best served cold,” Burns said at an annual security forum in Aspen. “In my experience, Putin is the ultimate apostle of payback so I would be surprised if Prigozhin escapes further retribution for this.”

The cause of the crash remains unclear.

Reuters, citing two anonymous United States officials, reported on Thursday that the US believes a surface-to-air missile that came from inside Russia likely shot down the plane. 

The officials told the news outlet that the information was still preliminary and being reviewed. 

Read the original article on Business Insider