The Kremlin has denied that it assassinated the Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Russian government also described as “an absolute lie” calls by western intelligence assessments of President Vladimir Putin’s potential involvement.
The UK Guardian reports that Prigozhin is believed to have been killed when his Embraer jet crashed north-west of Moscow on Wednesday.
Western intelligence officials briefed the media that Prigozhin was most likely to have been killed by an explosion onboard the plane on President Putin’s orders.
The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday: “There is a lot of speculation around this disaster, around the tragic death of the passengers on the plane, including Yevgeny Prigozhin. Of course, in the west all these speculations are presented from a certain angle. This is all an absolute lie.”
President Putin on Friday also moved to take advantage of Prigozhin’s death by issuing a decree requiring Wagner and all other private military company fighters to swear an oath of allegiance to Russia.
Prigozhin had refused to submit his mercenaries to direct state control, despite a direct request from Putin during a meeting at the Kremlin in June. His armed uprising that month came days before a deadline that would have forced the group to sign military contracts.
Putin’s decree, which was published on government websites, was meant to build the “spiritual and moral foundations for the defence” of Russia and ensure that the mercenaries “strictly follow the orders of their commanders and superiors”, the statement said.
Officials have been slow to confirm Prigozhin’s death, although he was listed on a flight manifest published by the Russian aviation agency on Wednesday. Peskov said Putin was waiting for the results of a full investigation into the crash, and indicated efforts to identify Prigozhin’s remains using DNA testing were continuing.
On Friday night Russian investigators said they had recovered flight recorders and 10 bodies from the scene of the plane crash. The Guardian UK