US intelligence weighs in on Russian warlord plane crash

The exact causes of the plane crash believed to have killed Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin have not been found, but there are plenty of theories beyond bad turbulence.

What happened: Initial US intelligence reports determined that the plane crash believed to have killed Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was the result of an intentional explosion. As of last night, Russia has yet to officially confirm his death, as the recovered bodies are burned beyond recognition and will require DNA testing

  • US reports were unable to definitively confirm his death, how exactly the explosion occurred (though they do theorize that a bomb may have been planted), or who did it.
  • Some conspiracy theorists claim Prigozhin may have faked his death, (it wouldn’t be the first time he was wrongly presumed dead) amidst reports of a second plane.

Catch-up: The crash came two months after Prigozhin led his paramilitary outfit, the Wagner Group, in a mutiny against Russia’s armed forces which killed over a dozen Russian pilots. The force aborted the mutiny in exchange for amnesty and permission to move to Belarus. 

Prigozhin’s life was ripped from the pages of a fabulist crime novel. After serving nine years in prison, he started a wildly successful chain of hot dog kiosks and eventually got into fine dining and consulting. In the mid-90s, his success caught the eye of one Vladimir Putin.

  • Prigozhin eventually entered the innermost circles of Russian power by winning big state catering contracts, before secretly founding the Wagner Group in 2014.

Bottom line: Putin’s involvement has not been confirmed, but that hasn’t stopped Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and, well, pretty much everyone from suggesting as much. Ultimately, the Wagner mutiny was the biggest challenge in Putin's 23 years of power. By (maybe) wiping out Prigozhin, Putin puts an end to the perception his control was slipping.—QH