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Unveiling Putin’s First Public Words on Tragedy
Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first public comments on Thursday about the plane crash that is believed to have killed Yevgeny Prigozhin, saying that Wagner Group leader “has made serious mistakes in life.” Putin said that he expressed condolences to the “employees of Wagner Group” who were on the crash-stricken plane on Wednesday.
Russia‘s aviation agency said the crash happened in northwestern Moscow, and all passengers on the plane, including Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, were killed. Prigozhin gained notoriety worldwide for his brutal tactics and success on the battlefield in the Ukrainian conflict.
“First and foremost, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of all the victims, it’s always a tragedy. Indeed, if they were there, it seems… from preliminary information, it appears that employees of Wagner Group were also on the plane,” He said during a meeting with Denis Pushilin, the self-proclaimed leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), in the Kremlin.
Speaking about Prigozhin in the past, Putin said he had known the Wagner leader “for a very long time” and that he was “a talented individual, a successful entrepreneur.” They had a rough existence and had done terrible things, but when I asked them about it, they had the answers they needed for themselves.” he said. – for some specific reasons, both obtained results in recent months.”
The accident involving Prigozhin’s plane occurred just two months after Prigozhin and Wagner’s revolt, which posed the biggest challenge to Putin’s rule in decades. Shortly after the revolt, an angered Putin made it clear that he saw Wagner’s actions as treason. While not mentioning Prigozhin by name, he accused the “organizers of the revolt” of betraying Russia.
A witness of the accident told Reuters on Thursday that before the plane hit the ground on Wednesday, he had seen one of its wings dip. “It went down on one wing. He claimed that instead of nosediving, it was flying.
Prigozhin’s apparent death comes after a series of incidents involving Kremlin critics who have died or faced attempts on their lives. No evidence has been presented that directly points to Kremlin or Russian security services’ involvement in the accidents. The cause of the accident is unknown, and Russian officials have initiated a criminal investigation.
Putin promised a thorough investigation, saying, “But what is absolutely certain, the head of the investigation committee reported to me this morning. He has already started a preliminary investigation into this incident. And it will be conducted fully and thoroughly,” Putin said.
US President Joe Biden, prominent Russian critic Bill Browder, and Ukrainian President Mykhailo Podolyak have suggested that they believe Putin was behind the accident.
CNN spoke to several individuals in Russia on Thursday about the accident. All agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity so they could speak freely without fear of retribution. None of the individuals believed Ukraine was responsible for the accident. Many openly speculated about the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin had downed the jet in retaliation for Prigozhin’s unsuccessful uprising in June.
“A Putin order was given to get rid of him because he doesn’t forgive betrayal,” said Alexei from Moscow. Putin was behind it, or his political department might have been, but Putin was aware of it and gave his approval.