Europe wary of 'quick conclusions' over Prigozhin plane crash

European leaders have warned of the difficulty of establishing the facts surrounding the presumed death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. Ten people were on board the private jet that crashed while travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg on Wednesday, and while Prigozhin’s name was on the passenger list, his death has not been confirmed.

German Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has warned that “no quick conclusions” can be drawn about Prigozhin’s fate. She added that it was “no coincidence” there was widespread suspicion that the Kremlin was behind the crash, whose cause has not yet been established. 

French government spokesperson Olivier Véran said on Thursday that there were “reasonable doubts” about the circumstances of the crash, while the European Commission’s spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security said the EU did not want to make assumptions. 

“It is not for us to verify and then speculate about the possible consequences of his death,” Peter Stano said. “Almost nothing coming out of Russia is credible. We have seen the news about Prigozhin’s death, but like many other cases, this is difficult to verify.” ​ 

'Signed his own death warrant'

Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said his country had nothing to do with the crash, Interfax-Ukraine reports. “Everyone understands who was involved in this,” he said, referring to the Kremlin.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who addressed the BRICS summit of emerging economies this week, has made no comment.

Prigozhin led his troops on a brief rebellion in June, seizing control of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia before moving towards Moscow. Their aim was to remove the military leadership. However, the advance was halted after negotiations with the Kremlin mediated by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. 

"We have seen the news about Prigozhin’s death, but like many other cases, this is difficult to verify"

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelensky, told German tabloid Bild on Thursday: "Prigozhin signed his own death warrant the moment he stopped 200 kilometres from Moscow. Prigozhin's revolt in June really frightened Putin and that was undoubtedly going to have consequences, because Putin does not forgive anyone who frightens him."

Prigozhin appeared in public for the first time since that uprising in a video circulated on social media on Monday, where, against the backdrop of a desert landscape, he said he was in Africa.

A law enforcement officer at the site of the plane crash © OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP

Loughborough University international relations expert Afzal Ashraf discusses the situation in Russia and the presumed death of Yevgeny Prigozhin © PRESS ASSOCIATION

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