Russian social networks close to the opposition or linked to the group agreed with the initial analyses of Western think tanks. These analyses suggested that the life of the insubordinate mercenary had been in danger since his mutiny in June. The plane crash, regardless of the causes, is seen as an act of revenge and retaliation, and the Kremlin is expected not to contradict this interpretation, according to Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of R. Politik consultancy.
The Russian authorities have not yet provided any clues about the accident. An investigation for infringement of air safety rules has been opened, and members of the Investigation Committee have arrived at the scene. Neither the Kremlin nor the Defense Ministry have made any statements so far.
Versions close to the Wagner group suggest that the firing of S-300 surface-to-air missiles could be the main cause, but this claim has not been proven. Various hypotheses and questions emerged after the incident. It is questioned whether Putin could be involved, given his history of repression of opponents and the current political context.
The crashed plane was carrying ten passengers, all deceased, including Dmitri Utkin, Prigozhin’s right-hand man at Wagner, and Valéry Shekalov, a Concord manager. The observations indicate the possibility that Putin ordered the assassination in response to the Wagner mutiny and because of his record of eliminating opponents. The situation is reminiscent of previous assassinations of figures critical of the regime.
Questions remain about Putin’s reasons for carrying out such a spectacular act, allowing Prigozhin to attend the St. Petersburg summit, and the opening of a discussion about revenge on social networks by Wagner’s mercenaries. Prigozhin’s death differs in time compared to previous cases of repression, which has drawn the attention of observers.