Former Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed under the oversight of former FSB Director and current Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Patrushev reportedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that relying on Prigozhin and his mercenaries in the war with Ukraine posed a threat to the Kremlin, ultimately leading to a bomb being planted under the wing of Prigozhin’s plane.
Kyiv Post asked Ukraine's military intelligence to clarify the details of Prigozhin's elimination in Aug. 23, when his plane crashed in Russia's Tver region. Andriy Yusov, a representative of the Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate (НUR), said that "there is currently no definitive evidence to confirm the fact of Prigozhin's death."
According to the WSJ, Patrushev began warning Putin about the danger posed by Prigozhin in the summer of 2022, but the president did not heed his words given the success of Wagnerites on the battlefield at the time.
However. according to a former Russian intelligence officer close to Putin and the secretary of the National Security Council, the situation changed when Prigozhin called Putin in October 2022 and, scolding the Russian president, complained about the lack of supplies. Patrushev allegedly witnessed the call.
The WSJ notes that, throughout Putin's rule, Patrushev has expanded Russia's intelligence services and terrorized its enemies with assassinations at home and abroad. Recently, his role has increased in support of the Russian invasion. His son Dmitry appointed has been Minister of Agriculture and Patrushev is being touted by some as a potential successor to Putin.
In early June 2023, the Kremlin announced plans to eliminate Wagner as a fighting force in Ukraine and ordered its militants to register with the Russian Defense Ministry.
However, on June 23, Prigozhin launched a mutiny, taking his 25,000 men and tanks off the battlefield in Ukraine and sending them to Rostov-on-Don to seize the headquarters of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces. The plan was to confront Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had traveled there for a meeting but fled before Prigozhin arrived.
Patrushev then reportedly called officers sympathetic to Prigozhin and asked them to convince the Wagner head to end the mutiny. Prigozhin did not answer the calls so Patrushev sought mediators, including Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
After the coup ended, Patrushev allegedly began to develop a plan to assassinate Prigozhin, with media sources from Western intelligence agencies indicating that Putin was later shown the plans and did not object.
On Aug. 23, Wagner's leader was waiting at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for his private plane to be checked and prepared for departure. According to Western intelligence services, it was during this delay that a small bomb was placed under the wing of the aircraft.
Mid-flight, the plane rapidly lost altitude and crashed near the Russian village of Kuzhenkino. All ten people on board were killed. A few days later, the Russian media reported that DNA testing had confirmed that Prigozhin had died in the plane crash. However, the Kremlin denied any involvement in the incident.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Dec. 22 that the current investigation is just "tabloid reading" and described the WSJ as being "very fond of producing pulp fiction."
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