The announced death of Yevgueni Prigojine, a signal for the Russian elite

Precisely two months after having defied the Kremlin by sending its mercenaries to attack Moscow, Yevgueni Prigojine is – very probably – dead. His disappearance, which occurred on Wednesday August 23, lives up to the legend that this former bandit has built for himself, who has become the head of a sprawling private militia on behalf of the Russian state: violent, spectacular, shrouded in shadow.

The 62-year-old businessman was among the registered passengers departing from Moscow on a private plane belonging to him. The aircraft, an Embraer Legacy 600, crashed before reaching its destination, St. Petersburg, his hometown and headquarters of his group, Wagner.

On Wednesday evening, ten bodies were found at the scene of the crash, near the village of Koujenkino, in the Tver region, located between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. But the Russian authorities still refrained, at this time, from officially confirming his death. Identification procedures were to begin Thursday morning, but, given the state of the bodies, these could take time and require DNA expertise.

Read the story: Article reserved for our subscribers Prigojine and Putin, twenty years of collaboration

However, the death of Evgueni Prigojine leaves little doubt. The readiness of the Russian agencies to give details of the crash is a clear sign of this. Several of his lieutenants, as well as the few media he still controlled, also announced it. These sources also confirmed the presence on board the plane of neo-Nazi sympathizer Dmitri Utkin, “Wagner” by his nom de guerre, the real founder, in 2014, of the group of mercenaries.

Only a few of his followers, fighters or simple admirers, still refused to admit the death of Yevgueni Prigojine, highlighting the presence of a second private jet belonging to the group, which was able to turn back to Moscow. Wasn’t the man an ace of mystification? Since his fall from grace, the Russian media have commented extensively on his use of fake passports, hairpieces and even look-alikes.

cult of violence

This denial says a lot about the stature, almost mythical, that the former gangster had forged in recent months. For many Russians, Prigozhin will remain the “Hero of Bakhmout” – from the name of the only major victory obtained for a year by the Russian army in its war in Ukraine – or the man who dared to challenge a hated elite, vilifying oligarchs and ministers throughout interviews or recordings sound. His direct and brutal speech, like his denunciation of the massive Russian losses on Ukrainian soil, gave him an aura of sincerity.

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