Possible death of Wagner Group chief ‘suspicious’ and ‘opportunistic,’ says military analyst

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Possible, Death, Wagner, Group, Chief, Suspicious, Opportunistic, Says, Military, Analyst

Yevgeny Prigozhin

The leader of Russia’s Wagner Group may have been killed in a plane crash Wednesday, exactly two months after he led a short-lived mutiny. If Yevgeny Prigozhin is in fact dead, a military analyst says the crash would send a clear message to critics and adversaries of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I don’t think anyone is going to be completely surprised that Prigozhin is gone, the question is, was it truly an accident or was it retribution for what he did to Putin?” retired Canadian major general David Fraser told CTV News Channel on Wednesday. “It does look somewhat suspicious, if not opportunistic.”

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In late June, Prigozhin led a rebellion against Russian defence officials, who he claimed were mishandling the country’s illegal war in Ukraine. Until then, Prigozhin’s private mercenary army had played a vital role in the war. The Wagner Group has also furthered Russian interests in conflicts and civil wars in countries like Syria, Libya and Mali.

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Although Prigozhin was supposed to be exiled to Belarus as part of the deal to end his brief mutiny, he reportedly continued to visit Russia. Russian media reports that three pilots and seven passengers died when a private jet crashed between Moscow and St. Petersburg on Wednesday. While it is unclear if Prigozhin was aboard the plane, officials say he was on its passenger list.

Fraser, who is CTV News’ military analyst, expects that Wagner Group will now come more firmly under Russian state control.

“We’ll never actually know what the true story is going to be, because it’s coming out of Russia,” Fraser said. “But irrespective of that, for Putin, whether he did this or not it certainly makes him look very much in power, very much taking control of the situation.”

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If Prigozhin was on board, he joins a list of Kremlin critics who have met untimely ends through poisonings, “accidental” falls from windows and other violent means.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Liberal cabinet retreat in P.E.I., Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada is assessing the situation.

“I’ll have the chance to talk with our ambassador to Russia in the coming hours,” Joly said. “That’s the reason why it’s important to have an ambassador in Russia, to be able to have eyes and ears on the ground.”

 

Source: CTVNews.ca

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