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Prigozhin: Who’s said what about unsurprising 'death' of Putin rival?

UNSPECIFIED LOCATION IN AFRICA - AUGUST 21: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY - MANDATORY CREDIT - 'WAGNER TELEGRAM ACCOUNT / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) A screen grab captured from a video shared online shows Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian private security company Wagner, holding a rifle in a desert area while wearing camouflage in a video for the first time after his rebellion against the Russian administration in an unspecified location in Africa on August 21, 2023. In the footage shared on the Telegram channel 'Wagner's evacuation', Prigozhin stated that they have made Russia 'even greater' on all continents, including Africa. (Photo by Wagner Account/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is presumed dead following a plane crash in Russia. (Getty)

What’s happening? Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin as a talented businessman and said he wished to express sincere condolences to the families of those who died in a plane crash.

Putin broke his silence on Thursday evening following a crash the day before 185 miles north of Moscow in which Prigozhin was reportedly killed.

Putin added in televised comments that it was necessary to await the outcome of the official investigation into the crash, in which all 10 people on board were killed, saying the examination would take some time.

TVER, RUSSIA - AUGUST 23: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY - MANDATORY CREDIT - 'WAGNER TELEGRAM ACCOUNT / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) A view of site after a private jet, allegedly carrying Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin and other passengers crashed in Russia's northwestern Tver region, Russia on August 23, 2023. Ten people died in a private jet crash in Russia's northwestern Tver region. Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner private military group, was among the passengers on the plane, according to the Federal Air Transport Agency. (Photo by Wagner Telegram Account/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The private plane allegedly carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin and other passengers is shown in flames in Russia's northwestern Tver region. (Wagner Telegram Account/Getty)

Shrouded in secrecy for may years, the Wagner private military group is renowned for its brutality. It's apparent ties to the Russian state had long been officially denied, but its direct links burst into the global spotlight following its involvement in the Ukraine invasion.

Prigozhin's presumed death has not come as a surprise to many after he angered Russian president Vladimir Putin when he mounted a short-lived and unsuccessful mutiny against Russia’s military leadership in June.

Here, Yahoo News UK rounds up what various people have said about the 'death' of Prigozhin…

British security services

Sources in the British security services reportedly believe the shooting down of the plane was carried out by Russia’s security service, the FSB – on the orders of Putin.

A source told The Telegraph that Putin functions on “the consequences of betrayal”, while another said the “mood music… points to the FSB” as they remain loyal to Putin.

Watch: Wagner leader Prigozhin was on crashed plane, Russian agency says

Sir Richard Dearlove

Former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, said Prigozhin’s death was “unsurprising”, and that Russia will attempt to present the crash as an accident.

He added: “Everyone in the West will come to the same conclusion – that this is Putin’s revenge on people who challenge his power base.

“We used to have a saying when I worked on the Soviet Union, which was that the wise line to take on Soviet Russia was that nothing happened by accident, and one might apply that to this event.”

General Lord Richard Dannatt

The former head of the British Army, General Lord Richard Dannatt, said the crash was “probably“ the work of Putin.

He told Sky News: “I think it is probably most likely that even if it wasn’t ordered by Putin directly that it was by someone who knows what Putin would have wished and has ensured the elimination of Prigozhin has happened.

“I think on the balance of probabilities say that this is Putin’s doing.”

Tver, Russian Federation. 24th Aug, 2023. ? still image grabbed from the footage posted on a Wagner linked Telegram channel @grey zone on August 23, 2023, shows a plane falling in the sky near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia on August 23, 2023. Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said on Wednesday that a private plane crashed in Tver region, killing all 10 people aboard, while the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviatsia, said that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the list of passengers. Photo by Gray Zone/ Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News
Footage shows the plane falling in the sky near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia. (Grey Zone/Alamy)

He suggested the situation could “divide” Russia as some people opposed the mutiny while others would have thought of Prigozhin as a hero.

Dannatt added that Putin has shown “he is in charge and a tough man and he has eliminated one of his opponents” but it causes “a split in Russian society”.

Senior Tory MP

Alicia Kearns, the Conservative chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs committee, suggested the speed at which Russian authorities confirmed Prigozhin was on the plane “should tell us everything we need to know”.

But she also suggested that if Prigozhin was still alive, he would not necessarily make that known.

In a post on Twitter, now known as X, she wrote: “A second plane owned by Prigozhin has landed at Ostafyevo airport near Moscow.

“Questions now whether Prigozhin was on the first plane, as the manifest stated, or on this second jet.

“If you were him and you’d boarded the second plane, would you let anyone know you’d survived?”

Kearns said Prigozhin’s failed coup against Putin meant he became a target and his death would end “Putin’s humiliation”.

Joe Biden

US president Joe Biden said he was “not surprised” at Prigozhin’s reported death.

The White House said Biden had been briefed on the crash and he told reporters he did not know for a fact what had happened.

He said: "I’m not surprised.

"There is not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not behind, but I don’t know enough to know the answer."

FILE - Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, around his factory which produces school meals, outside St. Petersburg, Russia on Sept. 20, 2010. Prigozhin made his name as the profane and brutal mercenary boss who mounted an armed rebellion that was the most severe and shocking challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rule. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Yevgeny Prigozhin mounted a failed coup against Vladimir Putin in June. (AP)

Wagner group

The Wagner-linked Telegram channel, Grey Zone, seemingly confirmed the death of the “hero of Russia” Prigozhin.

A post on the channel read: "The head of the Wagner Group, a Hero of Russia, a true patriot of his Motherland – Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin died as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia.

"But even in Hell, he will be the best! Glory to Russia!"

Anton Gerashchenko, the advisor to the minister of internal affairs of Ukraine, claimed that Wagner mercenaries are “going to take revenge“ on Putin for the death of their leader.

Gerashchenko wrote on X: “Calls for revenge against the killers fill the chat rooms of Prigozhin's channels. Law enforcers of two regions have been raised on alert.”

A video purporting to be from Wagner mercenaries has also since emerged on social media threatening revenge, where they warn: “Get ready for us.”

FILE - Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin attends the funeral of Dmitry Menshikov, a fighter of the Wagner group who died during a special operation in Ukraine, at the Beloostrovskoye cemetery outside St. Petersburg, Russia, on Dec. 24, 2022. Prigozhin made his name as the profane and brutal mercenary boss who mounted an armed rebellion that was the most severe and shocking challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rule. (AP Photo/File)
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death has still yet to be officially confirmed. (AP)

Keir Giles

Keir Giles, a Russia expert with the international affairs think tank Chatham House, urged caution about reports of Prigozhin’s death.

He said “multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, as part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels”.

Giles said it is “unlikely” that the “true cause of the crash” will ever be known as “there is no chance of any investigation that will be either transparent or reliable”.

He added: “Until we know for certain it’s the right Prigozhin, let’s not be surprised if he pops up shortly in a new video from Africa.”