The Kremlin has confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the funeral of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder and leader of the Wagner Group, a private military company that has been involved in several conflicts around the world.
iexclusivenews recall that Prigozhin was reportedly among the 10 people who died in a plane crash north of Moscow on Wednesday.
Who was Yevgeny Prigozhin?
Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef”, was a former hot dog seller who became a billionaire businessman and a close associate of Putin.
He owned several catering companies that provided food for the Kremlin, the military, and schools. He also had interests in oil, gas, precious metals, and gems.
Prigozhin was the founder and patron of the Wagner Group, a private military company that has been accused of carrying out covert operations on behalf of the Russian government in countries such as Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
The Wagner Group has been linked to human rights violations, war crimes, and mercenary activities.
Prigozhin was also allegedly behind the Internet Research Agency, a troll factory that conducted online influence campaigns to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election and other political events around the world.
He was indicted by the US Department of Justice for his role in the election meddling.
Why did Prigozhin turn against Putin?
Despite his close ties to Putin, Prigozhin became disillusioned with the Russian leader and his military establishment over their handling of the war in Ukraine.
In June this year, Prigozhin led a failed coup attempt against Putin, using his Wagner fighters to seize control of military facilities in two cities and threatening to march on Moscow.
He accused Putin of betraying Russia’s national interests and failing to support his loyal soldiers.
The coup was quickly suppressed by loyalist forces, with the help of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered a deal to end the rebellion.
Prigozhin and his fighters were supposed to leave Russia for Belarus, where they would be granted asylum.
However, Prigozhin’s whereabouts remained unclear after the deal. He appeared in a video message in July, claiming that he was in Africa, conducting reconnaissance and “making Russia even greater on every continent”.
How did Prigozhin die?
On Wednesday, August 23, a private jet carrying Prigozhin and some of his most trusted lieutenants crashed shortly after taking off from an airport near Moscow.
The plane was heading to St. Petersburg, where Prigozhin had a residence. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
But some sources have suggested that it could have been a result of sabotage or foul play.
The Russian authorities have confirmed that all 10 people on board were killed in the crash, including Prigozhin, his right-hand man Dmitry Utkin, and his logistics chief Valery Chekalov.
They also said that they have identified the bodies through genetic testing.
What is Putin’s reaction?
Putin has not publicly commented on Prigozhin’s death, but his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that he will not attend his funeral.
Peskov did not say where or when the funeral will take place, adding that he could not comment on a private family ceremony.
Peskov also denied any involvement of the Kremlin in the plane crash, rejecting widespread speculation that it was a revenge assassination for Prigozhin’s mutiny.
He said that such allegations were “absolutely absurd” and “have nothing to do with reality”.
However, some analysts have suggested that Putin may have had a motive to eliminate Prigozhin, who posed a threat to his authority and stability.
They also pointed out that Putin has a history of eliminating his enemies and rivals through various means.
What is the impact of Prigozhin’s death?
Prigozhin’s death is likely to have significant implications for Russia’s foreign policy and security interests.
As the patron of the Wagner Group, he played a key role in advancing Russia’s geopolitical agenda and influence in various regions of the world.
His death may create a power vacuum and uncertainty among his loyal fighters and allies.
Prigozhin’s death may also affect the ongoing investigations and sanctions against him and his associates by the US and other countries.
He was facing multiple charges and lawsuits for his alleged involvement in election interference, cyberattacks, human rights abuses, and money laundering.
Prigozhin’s death may also raise questions about the future of his vast business empire and assets.
He was known to operate through a complex network of shell companies and proxies to evade scrutiny and accountability. It is unclear who will inheritor control his wealth and interests.
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