In the year 2019, a transport An-72 aircraft collided in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Russian embassy announced that two Russians, Wagner's commanders, were on board. The news of Prigozhin's passing spread rapidly. He debuted in public three days later.
This case provides ample material for numerous conspiracy theories.
As is common knowledge, Wagner's business jet crashed north of Moscow on Wednesday, August 23, this year, in an accident that most Western observers view as a political assassination, raising doubts or, more precisely, a reluctance to declare unequivocally that Prigozhin passed away.
Even Vladimir Putin avoided explicitly admitting that the businessman who worked for the Kremlin "until yesterday" is no longer alive in his first public response to the plane crash.
Yevgeny Prigozhin is believed to have perished in a private plane accident near Moscow on Wednesday. Prigozhin was the bombastic commander of the Wagner military organisation, which attempted a failed rebellion against the Russian military ministry earlier this summer.
Security officials and observers from the USSR/Russia blame Putin for his demise.
Even though his name appears on the passenger manifest, it is uncertain if Prigozhin was on the doomed flight.
Citing the Russian Air Transport Agency, TASS later reported the deaths of Prigozhin and his senior assistant Dmitry Utkin.
Wagner asserted that Prigozhin perished in the plane crash and attributed his death to "Russian traitors." The Russian Ministry of Defence has not issued any statements regarding this matter.
Even after the dust settles and official pronouncements are made, it is unlikely that the public will ever fully comprehend the backstory due to the pervasiveness of Russian propaganda.
Obviously, a plane crash is possible, but I find it difficult to imagine a rebel war commander stabbing his political opponent.
The rearmost benefactor was slain in an accident.
Let us attempt to propose three potential explanations for what occurred to Prigozhin based on the available information:
The first possible explanation for the plane's destruction is an assassination on Vladimir Putin's instructions.
In June, when the mercenary commander attempted a coup against the Russian Ministry of Defence, Putin had every reason to wish Prigozhin dead, given his reputation for ruthlessness. Even though the uprising was suppressed, it was the most significant challenge to Putin's rule in the previous two decades.
Experts and international authorities predicted that Prigozhin would pass away in the months following the thwarted uprising.
According to CIA Director Bill Burns, Prigogine's term ended last month.
"Putin is someone who believes that revenge is best served cold," Burns remarked at the time. "In my experience, Prigozhin is a big fan of vengeance, so I'd be surprised if he didn't face additional consequences for his actions."
Putin and Prigozhin appeared to have reached an uneasy truce after the uprising. Allegedly exiled to Belarus, Prigozhin appeared to have spent considerable time in St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as travelling to Africa to meet his men.
Shortly after the news of Prigozhin's exile became public, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, took responsibility for Putin's failure to "resolve" Prigozhin promptly following the uprising.
After the plane disaster, a Putin interview began to circulate on social media, demonstrating that the Russian leader does not tolerate disloyalty, such as Prigozhin's rebellion, which Putin termed "treason."
The journalist in the video questions Putin, "Do you know how to forgive?"
"Yes, but not all," the president responded.
"What specifically cannot be forgiven?"
Putin stated categorically, "treason."
Even Kremlin insiders were not surprised by the news of the plane catastrophe. Unnamed insider told the Russian news source Meduza, "We feared the rebellion would not have a happy ending."
Such conduct is not tolerated within the Kremlin.
Another possibility is that the assassination of Prigozhin was commanded by someone else.
Prior to the catastrophic uprising, Prigozhin was an ardent Putin supporter.
The mercenary commander was only concerned with the Russian Ministry of Defence, and not with Vladimir Putin.
It is not "inconceivable" that disgraced soldiers could act against Wagner's commander without Putin's approval.
According to British intelligence sources, Prigozhin's plane was likely shot down by Russian intelligence to bolster the positions of Russian military leaders, including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, whom Prigozhin has publicly criticised.
Although some Wagner-affiliated social media groups have alleged that the plane was shot down, the cause of the plane's crash remains unknown.
The military has access to the resources required to execute the command; a senior member of the Russian military hierarchy is unnecessary.
Considering that his insurrection resulted in the deaths of some Russian military personnel, it is probable that the military felt this was unacceptable and decided to "take matters into their own hands."
Prigozhin "enjoyed" two months of independence after the failed uprising.
The military has access to the instruments required to execute this directive.
Numerous pieces of evidence indicate that the Russian government is dysfunctional. Russia terminated General Sergei Surovikin this week, weeks after the New York Times reported that Surovikin had advanced knowledge of Prigozhin's plans.
This raises the question of whether the mercenary commander had assistance from within the organisation.
One must wonder if anyone in Putin's army will operate without the express permission of the president?
Option three indicates that Prigozhin is still alive.
The notion that Prigozhin is not actually deceased most closely resembles a conspiracy theory. Despite how absurd it may sound; it is plausible given how much the Wagner gang's leader enjoys donning disguises and posing as someone else.
In the early hours following the aircraft crash, social media users began to spread allegations that Prigozhin staged his own death, perhaps by boarding the plane with a double.
Even officials from the Kremlin are sceptical. Before rejecting the hypothesis, some of them referred to Prigozhin as a "fraudster" and a "troll," telling the Russian news outlet Meduza that additional information is required.
The likelihood that Prigozhin survived the plane accident decreases as time passes. As additional evidence becomes available, the focus gradually but consistently shifts to Putin as the most likely culprit.
What was Yevgeny Prigozhin's identity?
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Yevgeny Prigozhin rose to prominence when his soldiers—including hundreds of prisoners he recruited from prisons—led the Russian assault on the city of Bakhmut in the war's longest and bloodiest combat.
Prigogine clashed with the military establishment, accusing him of incompetence and even treason, while boasting on social media about Wagner's accomplishments.
In June of this year, Wagner's forces captured the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, and as they advanced towards Moscow, they fired down and killed the pilots of four military helicopters. According to President Vladimir Putin, treason would be punished severely.
A deal in which the Kremlin agreed that Prigozhin and some of his warriors would travel to Belarus to end the slaughter and that charges against him for armed rebellion would be withdrawn contributed to putting an end to the uprising.
The execution of the agreement and Prigogine's future were both shrouded in uncertainty.
Five days after the insurgency began, the Kremlin claimed to have met with Putin. On July 5, state television aired footage of cash, passports, firearms, and other alleged items found during a search of one of his residences, alleging that the investigation into him was ongoing.
However, Prigozhin was captured on camera in St. Petersburg at the end of July, during a conference between Russia and Africa. This week, he appeared in a film that he claimed was filmed in Africa, where Wagner has operations in multiple nations.
Prigozhin, who was born on June 1 in St. Petersburg, spent nine years in a Soviet prison for offences including robbery and fraud. In 1990, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, he began working in his birthplace as a caterer and restaurateur. Putin, who was the senior assistant to the mayor of St. Petersburg at the time, is believed to have met him.
Prigozhin earned the moniker "Putin's chef" after coordinating events in the Kremlin and leveraging his political connections to secure lucrative federal contracts.
Previously, he quipped that "Putin's Butcher" would be a more appropriate moniker.
Wagner is a private military organisation whose personnel are stationed in Syria, Libya, and the Central African Republic to support Moscow's allies. Wagner was founded by Prigozhin. The United States imposed sanctions and criminal charges against him, which he vehemently denied.
Mr. Vladimir Utkin
Dmitry Utkin, also known as Wagner and the inspiration for the paramilitary group, was one of the passengers aboard the plane that crashed in Russia on Wednesday.
In recent years, Utkin, Prigozhin's rumoured right-hand man, was in charge of central command and combat training.
There are few photographs of Utkin, but one selfie that has gone viral depicts him covered in neo-Nazi tattoos.
Utkin worked for the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, from 1988 to 2008. After Wagner joined pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Utkin, who had previously worked in military intelligence, assumed command.
He may have participated in the group's activities in Africa and Syria.