Vladimir Putin was tipped to take revenge on his enemies after Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin‘s failed coup attempt.
The Wagner founder and top chiefs from the private military organisation were killed in a plane crash on Wednesday (August 23), according to Russian officials.
The private jet carrying three pilots and seven passengers was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg when it went down more than 60 miles north of the capital, according to officials cited by Russia’s state news agency Tass.
Russia’s civilian aviation regulator, Rosaviatsia, said he was on the manifest.
Prigozhin’s fate has been the subject of intense speculation since he mounted a short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military leadership. That rebellion was launched exactly two months ago to the day.
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Putin was understood to have boosted his personal security and to have been drawing up plans for a bloody purge after he was left rattled by Prigozhin’s military convoy getting to within barely 100 miles of Moscow, before it was abruptly aborted.
A western security source predicted what would happen in the wake of the botched coup attempt, telling the Mirror in June: “There is an increasing belief Prigozhin will be gone in months, if not sooner, and many others as well.
“He was allowed to go to Belarus to shut him up.
“It is possible he’ll be allowed to get comfortable in Minsk then be dealt with, as Putin has a great deal of leverage with the Belarus authorities.”
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“But we also believe some of the oligarchs may have been aware of what Prigozhin was doing.”
The source added: “They may have even supported it and then removed that support at some point.
“Many senior people in Russia have disappeared or fallen out of hotel windows before the war in Ukraine and during it.
“In the coming days and weeks we are likely to see more of this activity.”
Meanwhile, General Sergei Surovikin, a former commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine who was linked to Prigozhin, has been dismissed as chief of the air force after weeks of uncertainty over his fate.
Surovikin has not been seen in public since June 23-24, when Prigozhin sent his men marching towards Moscow.
In a video released during the uprising, Surovikin — who was believed to have close ties to Prigozhin — had urged him to pull the mercenaries back.
The Wagner uprising posed the most serious challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s 23-year rule and reports circulated that Surovikin had known about it in advance.
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His absence has been one of several enduring mysteries surrounding the rebellion.
During his absence, Russian media speculated about Surovikin’s whereabouts with some claiming he had been detained.
However, his daughter told the Russian social media channel Baza in late June that her father had not been arrested.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, citing an anonymous source, reported Surovikin has been replaced as commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces by Colonel General Viktor Afzalov, who heads the main staff of the air force.
The agency frequently represents the official position of the Kremlin through reports citing anonymous officials in Russia’s defense and security establishment.
The Russian government has not commented on the report. Russian daily newspaper RBC reported that Surovikin is being transferred to a new job and is now on vacation.
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