Russian leader offers his condolences, also says Wagner leader made ‘serious mistakes’
Vladimir Putin made his first public comments Thursday about mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin since the latter was presumably killed in a plane crash. In something close to a eulogy, Putin praised the leader of the Wagner Group as a “talented person” but also as someone with a “complicated fate” who “made serious mistakes in life,” reports the Washington Post and the BBC. Putin did not elaborate on those mistakes or mention the aborted march on Moscow that Prigozhin led in June. The Russian leader, noting he had known Prigozhin since the 1990s, offered condolences to his family, and to the relatives of other Wagner Group officials believed to be on the plane that went down.
Putin made a point to praise Prigozhin and the Wagner Group for their contributions to the Ukraine war, and he qualified the remark about Prigozhin’s “mistakes in life” by adding that he also “achieved the results he needed.” The investigation into the plane crash would take “some time,” added Putin. On that front, the New York Times reports that US and Western officials say early evidence suggests an explosion on board the plane is what brought down the aircraft. The plane appeared to have been flying normally until its sudden plummet.
The Times notes that such an explosion could have been caused by a bomb or perhaps “adulterated fuel.” The AP similarly reports that US intelligence thinks an on-board explosion “intentionally” caused the crash, and it quotes one unnamed official who says the blast is consistent with Putin’s “long history of trying to silence his critics.” (Weeks ago, President Biden half-jokingly warned that Prigozhin better keep a close on his food for fear of being poisoned.)