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A messy end to a strange life

by | Aug 26, 2023 | Office Space | 3 comments

I have refrained on commenting at any great length about the catastrophe which befell the Embraer jet owned by one Evgeniy Prigozhin two days ago, mostly because the situation was so strange and so fluid. Now the Neo-Tsar has effectively confirmed Prigozhin’s death, I think it is safe to say Prigozhin was in fact on board the doomed plane with a high degree of probability (though NOT with absolute certainty – the DNA testing on the bodies has not, to my knowledge, been completed yet).

I repeat, there IS reason to think Prigozhin might still be alive. However, I personally consider that probability to be quite low – in the realm of 10% or less. The only supporting evidence we have for his continued existence, amounts to the fact that Prigozhin’s other plane was in the air at the same time as the one that had a rough encounter with the ground. it is also true that Prigozhin had multiple identities at his disposal, and that he was once declared dead a few years ago in a plane crash in Africa, only to show up shortly afterwards, quite alive.

These points are, nonetheless, circumstantial, and the greater weight of evidence points to his messy death.

The Neo-Tsar was, I thought, quite classy and very measured in his words about Prigozhin’s death. He did not gloss over Prigozhin’s crimes in life, but he also did not dwell upon them. He pointed out that Prigozhin made a number of serious mistakes – the greatest of which, by far, was his abortive putsch two months ago. But, as President Putin also pointed out, the Wagner group did (and does) great things for Russia, and fights hard for the interests of the Russian Federation.

Let us be under no illusions about Prigozhin himself. It is no insult to the dead to call them what they were in life – and Prigozhin was, whether we like it or not, quite literally a thug. He was twice convicted of crimes, given a suspended sentence the first time in 1979, and then jailed for a total of 9 years in 1980. The crime which sent him to jail involved a very serious armed assault on a woman.

Prigozhin was no choirboy, at all. His actions and efforts all his life proved that beyond any doubt.

It is true that, after he left prison, he made good of himself, to some extent, by founding his own catering business. He managed that business into a serious empire – but we must not forget that contracts with the military did a lot to propel his business interests forward. Those military contracts were on highly favourable terms for Prigozhin, who milked them for all they were worth. He made billions of rubles (i.e. millions of dollars) from those contracts, and lived a quite extravagant and flamboyant life, for a Russian.

His history with the Wagner PMC is rather more difficult to establish. Let us be clear about this – Prigozhin was not the founder of Wagner. We now know for certain that ЧВК Вагнер was in fact a creation of at least two military intelligence bureaus, with the direct knowledge and consent of the Russian government, to act as a kind of “Russian Foreign Legion” – doing things overseas which the regular Russian military cannot, by Russian constitutional law, do on its own.

(Unlike in the West, and quite contrary to what most people think, the Russian Federation does, in fact, operate on the basis of LAWS. Those laws may not be to the liking of Westerners, but they are clear and specific as to what the Russian government can, and cannot, do.)

Prigozhin was, instead, a convenient frontman for the Wagner group. He provided a face and a cover story for what was, in fact, a Russian government-funded paramilitary arm. And he played that role very, very well.

Things seem to have come unstuck around the time Wagner took up the responsibility for assaulting Bakhmut (today’s Artyomovsk). As far as I can figure out that story, essentially, the Russian military needed time and space to breathe, to allow the 300K mobilised troops to integrate into the force structure of the military and train up. Gen. Surovikin turned to Wagner to fight a delaying action in Bakhmut, because he could see clearly that Ukrainian military commanders simply would not tolerate the loss of any territory whatsoever, and would fight for every inch of ground. Bakhmut, being strategically insignificant except for its rail and road lines, and challenging to defend, was nonetheless a symbol of Ukrainian prestige, which the Ukies insisted on defending to the last man.

Surovikin, being a capable commander, sent in the Wagner boys to grind down the khokhols in Bakhmut, and Prigozhin happily went along.

However, at some point in that story, things seem to have gone to Prigozhin’s head. It seems as though he came to believe he was Wagner – which he was NOT – and his political ambitions and desires got the better of him. (It was clear even then that Prigozhin had his eyes on some form of political office – he certainly had the charisma, track record, and popular backing for that sort of thing.) He decided that, instead of obeying Surovikin’s order to grind down the khokhols, he would seize Artyomovsk.

In so doing, he and his senior Wagner commanders sent hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Wagner fighters to their deaths against hardened positions without sufficient artillery preparation and cover.

This is why Wagner went on a major recruiting drive in Russian prisons – to make up their losses. This is also why losses among the prisoners were so high – because Wagner threw those prisoners into the fray with limited training and fire support. By Prigozhin’s own admission, around 5,000 Wagner fighters and 10,000 prisoners died in the fighting in Bakhmut (though they destroyed between 50,000 and 70,000 Ukies). That is an APPALLING number of dead, given the relative size of Artyomovsk and the nature of Surovikin’s actual orders.

This leads us to the question of who could have killed Prigozhin. And that is where things get interesting.

I think we can rule out Putin and the Russian government pretty quickly. This is not because I think Putin is a nice person – he is not. He is ruthless when he needs to be, but he is also extremely risk-averse and highly calculating. The manner in which Prigozhin’s aircraft crashed was public, noisy, sensational, and highly distracting.

It simply does not make sense to assassinate someone like Prigozhin, with his popularity, power, and influence, in Russian airspace over a comparatively crowded part of the country, during the BRICS summit. None of that fits within the way the Neo-Tsar operates.

Contrary to both popular opinion and common whore-(((media))))))))) portrayals of the man, Vladimir Putin is not a thug – unlike Prigozhin was. If you actually read the Neo-Tsar’s speeches and public policy statements, either in English (which I do), or in the original Russian (which I can, to a limited extent, and do to the best of my ability), you will quickly realise that Putin is in fact a highly articulate, intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, and VERY historically-minded man, with facts and evidence always at his fingertips. He speaks in measured tones, with a certain dry wit, and is not often prone to vulgarity – and when he does use it, you can rest assured he is doing so with a VERY deliberate purpose.

Putin is a man who weighs every word and every action. He is not always right – he himself will admit as much, and over the past 18 months he has repeatedly admitted to his excessive trust in Western promises, which led him astray and prevented him from acting when he should have.

While Putin has a well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness – witness how he dealt with the oligarchs who polluted Russia’s body politic in the early 2000s with such swiftness and efficiency – he is not prone to simply executing people just because they displease him.

There is also a distinct possibility that members of the Russian security apparatus, or parts of the former Wagner organisation, wanted to get rid of him. The former would want him gone because of his role in plotting and planning an insurrection against the Russian government – the latter would want him gone for exactly the same reason, but more because he knew exactly who did what and when during his abortive putsch. Basically, he was the man who knew too much, and needed to be silenced for that reason.

Perhaps the greater weight of evidence, at this time, appears to sit with either the Ukrainians or the Western powers. Both have very urgent reasons for wanting to eliminate him. For the Western powers – particularly the US and the French – Wagner represents a serious and scary (though, in my view, overblown) threat to their interests. To them, getting rid of Prigozhin served the purpose of slaying a bogeyman that has captured their fevered dreams after they effectively destroyed an entire Ukrainian army grouping in Bakhmut (now Artyomovsk).

That latter reason also explains exactly why the Ukrainians would want to eliminate him. The Ukrainian secret police, the SBU, are certainly not above assassinations of Russian public figures, as they have shown repeatedly with their successful killings of Darya Dugina and Vladlen Tatarskiy, and their attempted assassination of Zakhar Prilepin. They certainly have the means and the motive to carry out a targeted killing of this kind – it remains, however, to establish opportunity.

There is a video floating around on Telegram which purports to show some supposedly interested buyers in Prigozhin’s jet – he may have been looking to sell – being shown around the aircraft by the co-pilot, who died in the crash. The identities of these buyers cannot be established easily from the video.

I have seen speculation on Telegram arguing these buyers were scoping out the jet for places to plant a bomb that would kill Prigozhin and his key subordinates/managers within Wagner. If true, then no doubt the Russian FSB will be investigating that possibility quite thoroughly.

We also cannot rule out simple mechanical failure. Supposedly, Embraer – the manufacturer of the model of jet Prigozhin flew in – has been unable to supply parts and accessories to the Russian market due to sanctions. This has led some to speculate that Prigozhin’s jet simply malfunctioned due to poor servicing and maintenance.

This, too, remains a possibility which we cannot rule out. Now the FSB has recovered the black box and flight recorders for the jet, we shall see what we shall see, as it were. The answers we are looking for, will be somewhere in that field of debris that marks the likely final resting place of one of Russia’s most colourful characters.

With respect to Prigozhin himself, we cannot avoid the fact that, as harsh as it sounds, he was a marked man – and he did that to himself. When he attempted an insurrection against the legitimate and highly popular government of Russia itself, he put a price on his head – and he knew it. President Putin offered amazingly lenient terms to Prigozhin, in a deal brokered by President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus, which involved Wagner and its titular head relocating permanently, as exiles, to Belarus.

Unfortunately, Prigozhin flouted the terms of that exile repeatedly, showing up in Russia where his presence definitely was not wanted or needed, and where he served as basically a serious distraction during serious moments. This was not a tolerable situation, and Prigozhin had to realise that at some level.

One way or another, after what he did, Prigozhin was not long for this world – and the heavy hand of fate proved that beyon any doubt.

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  1. furor kek tonicus ( Lahaina looks like an intentional Satanic human sacrifice )

    regardless of how measured Putin may be, Russia is not that far removed from “most violent backstabbing thug who has all of his main rivals murdered, wins” days of the Soviet empire.
    and whatever Prigozhin’s actual position/authority within Wagner, i don’t think Putin can afford to have rogue generals running around shooting at Russian regulars and claiming they’re going to overthrow Moscow.
    combine that with ( according to your characterization here ) Prigozhin blaming the regular Russian military for his own strategic fvckups, and Putin was obviously dealing with someone who could no longer be trusted, not just to act irrationally, but not even to act irrationally within his own established paradigm.
    and if the reports of cases of cash within Prigozhin’s quarters are true ( and without Putin’s knowledge ), that’s out and out treason. so Prigozhin was a traitor who was violating his own voluntary exile less than a couple of months after “accepting” it. and that of itself is worthy of death. in addition to question of what he was doing in Russia that was so important to him that he was violating his exile.
    otoh, you are correct that there are other people who had cause to not want Priggy running around anymore. if Putin’s exile agreement with Prigozhin was also predicated on Priggy leading a Wagner assault on Kiev from Belarus ( ie – triple cross ), then all sorts of Ukie and western intel groups would have cause to want him dead as well.

  2. Chris

    Thanks for this analysis. Not reading any news these days, sites like this are the few sources of news and analysis I feel I can trust. You’ve earned it. Thanks again.

    • Didact

      Thank you very much for your kind words, I greatly appreciate them and will always do my best to repay that trust.


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