'This Is No Coincidence, Comrade'

Prigozhin's apparent death in plane crash widely seen as payback for Wagner mutiny
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2023 6:48 AM CDT
Prigozhin's Death Exposes 'Mafia-Like State'
People lay flowers at an informal memorial next to the former 'PMC Wagner Centre' in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.   (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his deputy Dmitry Utkin are presumed dead in a Wednesday plane crash that many observers in Russia and beyond believe was no accident. The jet carrying Prigozhin, Utkin, and eight others went down northwest of Moscow two months to the day after the mercenary group staged an aborted rebellion against Russian military leadership, and some analysts believe it was taken down as the "Kremlin's revenge" for the challenge to Vladimir Putin, the AP reports. More:

  • Death could lead to "spectacular violence." Anne Applebaum at the Atlantic predicts that Prigozhin's apparent death—the latest in a long line of mysterious deaths of Putin critics—could lead to "even more spectacular violence." With the crash, the "violence on the periphery of Russia's empire has now migrated to its very heart," Applebaum writes. Many people "knew Prigozhin, worked with Prigozhin, and benefited from Prigozhin's businesses, military and criminal," she writes. "Will they wait passively for violence to consume them? Will they escape ... or will they try to strike first?"

  • Death "reveals brutal politics." "This is no coincidence, comrade, as the Soviets used to say," the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes. The board says Prigozhin's "demise reveals the brutal politics that now controls Russia"—and should make anybody who believes Putin can be "shamed or appeased into backing away from his ambitions to reconstitute a Greater Russian empire" think twice. "He will kill anyone who stands in his way at home, and he'll do the same abroad—in Ukraine, Poland, or anywhere else, if he believes he can get away with it."
  • Regime is a "mafia-like state." If Prigozhin was killed on Putin's orders, it will reinforce his image as a "vengeful strongman," but his "methods have also undermined the notion that Russia is a regular state, exposing Mr Putin's regime as a mafia-like enterprise driven by personal whim and blood feuds," the Economist writes. "The very existence of Wagner—a private army that is formally banned by Russian criminal code—was a sign of Mr Putin's mistrust in regular institutions of the state and his reliance on informal connections."

  • This "was probably exactly what it appeared to be." While the cause of the crash may never be known and Putin might even praise Prigozhin as a patriot, it "was probably exactly what it appeared to be: the assassination of a nettlesome rival by the ruthless ruler," writes Serge Schmemann at the New York Times. Prigozhin's fate "was sealed two months ago" with the betrayal of Putin, he writes. "Whatever the cause of this crash, Mr. Putin's army of sycophants and cronies are certain to understand the message: No amount of bootlicking, at which Mr. Prigozhin had been a master, and no long history of loyal service, whether providing food for the Kremlin or running a private army, would be enough to protect anyone who turned on the don."
(More Yevgeny Prigozhin stories.)

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