When Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner paramilitary group launched their audacious insurrection, defying even the might of Vladimir Putin, it sent shockwaves through Russia. Putin's condemnation of the act as "treachery" and a "stab in the back" marked the gravity of the situation. He vowed that those responsible would face consequences, yet there was bewilderment when no such retribution followed.
A surprising deal materialized between Prigozhin and the Kremlin, leading to the abrupt cessation of the mutiny. Astonishingly, all charges against Prigozhin and his fighters were dropped, despite Russian soldiers losing their lives during the short-lived insurgency.
This sudden turn of events portrayed Putin in an unexpected light - one of apparent weakness. Russian newspapers questioned the compromise, raising doubts about its appropriateness in dealings with "criminals and terrorists." The very question of whether Prigozhin had transitioned into a political player emerged.
Now, the landscape has shifted dramatically.
A mere two months later, reports indicate that Prigozhin is likely dead, following a fiery plane crash. Dmitry Utkin, the commander of Wagner, was also on board. The Russian elite may not mourn Prigozhin's demise, particularly given his outspoken criticism of military leaders and his audacious challenge to the Kremlin. He audaciously stated that the "March of Justice," as he termed the insurrection, targeted high-ranking defense officials rather than the Kremlin.
In reality, the mutiny struck directly at Putin's authority, inflicting a day of humiliation upon the Kremlin. Putin conceded that Wagner had been backed by Russian state funds, revealing that financial backing didn't guarantee loyalty.
If foul play orchestrated by those in power is behind this, it conveys two clear messages: armed resistance is futile, and those who dare will suffer the same fate. Such a scenario could fortify Putin's domestic strength in the wake of these dramatic events.
Yet, a potential twist looms: Prigozhin could transform into a martyr. Should his devoted followers, well-trained warriors, call for revenge, Russia might see another layer of upheaval. The Telegram channel Grey Zone, linked to Wagner, implicitly blamed "Russian traitors" for Prigozhin's supposed demise. It left the ominous question of Wagner's potential response unanswered.
For months, speculation abounded about Prigozhin's fate following the mutiny. He must have been aware of the uncertainty surrounding him. Nonetheless, recent weeks saw him gallivanting aboard his private plane without evident concern for air travel dangers. Perhaps he harbored a belief that his power and significance within modern Russia rendered him untouchable? The answers may be buried alongside the charred wreckage of his private jet.