As part of the program Regional Initiative to Combat Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.
Ten reasons why Kiev ordered the liquidation of Prigozhin
The leader of the Wagner paramilitary mercenary formation, Yevgeny Prigozhin, died on August 23 in a plane crash. The private plane in which Prigozhin was travelling from Moscow to St. Petersburg crashed north of Moscow, killing nine people on board.
The Wagner Group is a private paramilitary organization managed by Prigozhin, which has participated in conflicts around the world, from the civil wars in Syria and Libya to the 2014 war in Donbas. Wagner is currently one of the main actors in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
This breaking news opened up space for the spread of Russian narratives and disinformation in pro-Russian tabloids, and numerous analysts and experts spoke out on this issue, speculating on the causes of this accident. One of them is the political scientist Sergei Markov, who presented ten assumptions about Kiev’s alleged liquidation of Prigozhin.
Markov first assumes that the explosive device was installed in the turbo cooling, which was replaced before the flight in the plane in which Prigozhin was. On his Telegram channel, he states that “the device was brought to Russia through the grey import zone”, for which he does not provide any evidence or even assumptions as to how this could be possible. He also suspects the mysterious buyers who inspected the plane on the same day the plane carrying Prigozhin crashed. As with the previous assumption, we do not have any evidence for this until the investigation is completed.
The political scientist does not insist on these versions, but he is sure that Kiev is behind the downing of this plane. He is convinced that the Ukrainian authorities ordered the murder of Prigozhin because they hate the Wagner group and its founder, Prigozhin. In addition, he points out the hostility of the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and Yevgeny Prigozhin. As a motive for the liquidation of the leader of the paramilitary formation, he cites hatred but not arguments supported by facts about the accident itself, and these reasons stop at the domain of mere speculation about the cause of the plane crash and Prigozhin’s death. Although it is certain that the death of Prigozhin was celebrated in Kiev, it is hard to believe that the power of the Ukrainian services is such that they could prepare and carry out an assassination in the heart of Russia.
Markov further states that the United States of America supported the assassination of Prigozhin because Wagner represents a threat to the US in Africa. He also mentions the terrorist actions that the Security Service of Ukraine carried out on the territory of Russia and went unpunished. Although there is no such evidence, it is too early to look for the culprits, at least until all the evidence is collected and the investigation is fully conducted. Also, the death of Prigozhin, although he is a central figure of Wagner, will hardly disrupt the functioning of their troops in Ukraine or Africa.
After the news about the plane crash and the death of Prigozhin, various conspiracy theories appeared, but one of the most prominent is the claim that Yevgeny Prigozhin is alive and that he was not on that plane at all. Russian political analyst Valery Soloway claims that the head of the Wagner group is “alive and in good condition”, as the British portal Daily Mail reported. “According to Dr. Solovey, Prigozhin faked his death in a plane crash approved by Putin and engineered by his Security Council of the Russian Federation,” the Kurir reports.
In his predictions, Soloway says that it can be expected that Prigozhin will appear in public by the end of the year since his counterpart was in the crashed plane. However, Russian officials announced that the DNA analyses were completed and “it was confirmed that the head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, died in the plane crash”, reports Nova.rs portal.
On the other hand, the text on the portal b92 states that unnamed British sources believe that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation is behind the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin and “it is believed that the death of the founder of Wagner will strengthen the position of the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, which Prigozhin could not stand and publicly criticized.”
Also, the pro-Russian media reports that Artem Stepanov, the former founder of the MNT Aero company, who owns the Embraer Legacy 600 plane, in which Prigozhin and his bodyguards were at the time of the crash, was involved in the plane crash. It is speculated on the Blic portal that Prigozhin’s personal pilot had access to the mentioned plane and that he escaped to a peninsula in the east of Russia just before the accident, but his location is still not confirmed.
As we can see, the news of the plane crash and the death of Prigozhin prompted many analysts to express their opinions about the involvement of Kiev. Given that the investigation into the actual cause of the plane crash is still ongoing, there is no evidence to suggest any involvement of the West and Ukraine in the plane crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Author: Nataša Stanojević