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White House on Prigozhin: Kremlin has 'long history of killing its opponents'

by Martin Fornusek August 29, 2023 10:58 PM 2 min read
Screenshot of Wagner mercenary group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin claiming to be on the African continent in a video published to the "Razgruzka Vagnera" Telegram channel linked to the mercenary group on Aug. 21, 2023. (Telegram)
This audio is created with AI assistance

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre implied during a press briefing on Aug. 29 that the Kremlin was behind the death of Wagner Group's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, but stopped short of saying so explicitly.

Responding to a question about whether Russian President Vladimir Putin is responsible for the plane crash that had killed Prigozhin and other top Wagner commanders last week, the spokesperson quoted U.S. President Joe Biden by saying that "not much happens in Russia that Putin is not behind."

"We all know that the Kremlin has a long history of killing its opponents," she noted, adding that Prigozhin's death is a result of Russia's internal dysfunction.

However, Jean-Pierre emphasized that the conclusions about the warlord's death are evident and provided no new official assessments on the matter.

Russia's Investigative Committee officially confirmed that Prigozhin was among the 10 victims of the fatal private jet crash in Russia's Tver Oblast on Aug. 23. The warlord's funeral took place today on Aug. 29 without Putin's attendance.

Following mounting tensions between Prigozhin and Russia's Defense Ministry, the Wagner Group launched a short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin in June, taking the city of Rostov and marching toward Moscow before abruptly ending the insurrection less than 24 hours after it began.

Prigozhin was allowed to walk free following an undisclosed deal allegedly brokered by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

While the reasons for the crash of Prigozhin's aircraft remain unclear, U.S. officials named a bomb onboard or "some other form of sabotage" as a likely cause of the incident. Biden commented for CNN simply that the news of the oligarch's death is not surprising.

According to experts from the Institute for the Study of War, Wagner's boss was "almost certainly" assassinated by the Kremlin as the Russian authorities aimed to "weaken, subsume, and destroy the organization."

Russia confirms death of Wagner leaders Prigozhin and Utkin
Russia’s Investigative Committee officially confirmed the death of Wagner Group’s leaders Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin following a DNA test of their bodies, Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported on Aug. 27.
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