Russia Denies Killing Prigozhin, Calling the Idea Anti-Putin Propaganda

The Kremlin on Friday heatedly denied blame for the presumed loss of life of the mercenary chief Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, dismissing the concept that the Russian authorities had destroyed a enterprise jet reportedly carrying Mr. Prigozhin as Western propaganda geared toward smearing President Vladimir V. Putin.

“An absolute lie,” stated Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman.

The denials had been repeated in numerous kinds all through the day by Russia’s overseas minister, state-controlled broadcasters and Mr. Putin’s closest overseas ally, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, president of Belarus. But they had been sure to ring hole to many individuals inside and outdoors Russia who know the Kremlin’s file of denying — or accusing others of — actions it later admitted to or was proven to have carried out.

Some European leaders, many Western information retailers and other people near Mr. Prigozhin’s Wagner paramilitary pressure have speculated that Mr. Putin had Mr. Prigozhin killed in retaliation for his temporary mutiny towards Russia’s army management in June. U.S. officers to this point have been extra cautious about assigning blame, however President Biden stated on Thursday: “There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind. But I don’t know enough to know the answer.”

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr. Peskov rejected recommendations about the explanation for the aircraft crash, on Wednesday northwest of Moscow, as mere Western hypothesis. But in the two months after the Wagner insurrection, many Russians in addition to folks overseas expressed shock that Mr. Prigozhin was alive and free.

The Russian authorities has not confirmed the identities of these killed on Wednesday, however it has stated that Mr. Prigozhin and Wagner’s prime area commander, Dmitri Utkin, had been amongst the 10 folks listed on the jet’s manifest, that 10 our bodies had been recovered and that there have been no survivors. Mr. Putin spoke of Mr. Prigozhin in the previous tense on Thursday, saying, “This was a person with a complicated fate.”

U.S. and different Western officers have voiced rising confidence that Mr. Prigozhin is lifeless, and have stated there may be proof that an explosion on the aircraft brought on it to fall from the sky and crash northwest of Moscow.

Russia’s overseas minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, like Mr. Peskov, on Friday suggested ready for the outcomes of Russia’s official inquiry into the incident. Investigators stated they had been analyzing the victims’ DNA for identification and that they’d recovered the aircraft’s flight information recorders.

“I would suggest focusing on the facts and not what is being said by the Western media,” Mr. Lavrov advised Russian state media.

Mr. Lukashenko, who depends closely on political and financial assist from his Russian counterpart, stated, “Knowing Putin, how scrupulous, cautious, accurate he is, I do not believe that he would do this,” based on the Belarusian state information company Belta.

But Mr. Lukashenko, who acted as an middleman to finish the June mutiny, stated at the time that of their conversations, Mr. Putin had raised the risk of getting the mercenary boss killed. He stated he had warned Mr. Prigozhin that the Russian chief meant to “squash him like a bug.”

On Russian state tv, cheerleaders for Mr. Putin and his battle towards Ukraine have devoted much less attention to the explanation for the aircraft crash than to Western media studies about it. Vladimir Solovyov, a number one discuss present host, instructed that Western international locations had been concerned in the loss of life of Mr. Prigozhin, “one way or another.”

As he spoke, pictures of the entrance pages of British tabloids flashed on the display screen behind him, with headlines accusing Mr. Putin. Western media and their “agents,” Mr. Solovyov stated, are “pushing an agenda that’s convenient for the West.”

Olga Skabeyeva, the host of one other outstanding present, equally displayed a parade of British, French and Spanish newspapers on her discuss present. “The plane crash with Prigozhin is on all the newspaper covers, though, for some reason, the headline on all of them is the same: ‘Putin’s Revenge,’” she stated. “That’s how a free and democratic press looks. They don’t even alter the words — that’s how strict their training manual is.”

Western media retailers, wrote Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser, “cannot rationally explain why Putin should remove Prigozhin, who by this point posed no political threat. That’s why they explain this as Putin’s irrational hatred of any enemies.”

In reality, many Western analysts have stated that in an autocratic system dominated by worry and pressure, Mr. Putin appeared weaker for not severely punishing Mr. Prigozhin. Mr. Putin himself has stated that the one transgression he couldn’t forgive was betrayal.

The Kremlin has denied hyperlinks to assassinations and tried assassinations of a number of different Putin enemies that Western governments have concluded had been the work of Russian intelligence businesses. Russian media have trumpeted these denials — generally with pointed remarks about the misfortune that may befall “traitors” — whereas floating, with out proof, an array of theories about others being accountable.

In 2014, when Russian troops infiltrated after which seized the Ukrainian area of Crimea, Mr. Putin and his proxies at first insisted that Russian forces weren’t there, after which admitted it. Shortly after, pro-Moscow forces seized management of elements of the jap Donbas area, beginning a civil battle; the Kremlin stated they had been simply native separatists and denied any connection, however proof quickly emerged that Russia was instigating, arming and, to some extent, finishing up the insurrection.

For years the authorities denied the existence of the Wagner group and Mr. Prigozhin denied any ties to it, earlier than each reversed their tales. They additionally denied a Russian disinformation marketing campaign to affect American elections, till Mr. Prigozhin admitted to that, too.

And as Mr. Putin constructed up Russian forces on Ukraine’s border in 2021 and early 2022, he and others insisted there was no plan to go to battle. Then he invaded, accused Ukraine of being the aggressor and claimed that the authorities in Kyiv — headed by a democratically elected, Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky — was run by Nazis.

In justifying the battle, outstanding Russians have made baseless claims about genocide towards ethnic Russians, and about American missiles and bioweapons labs on Ukrainian soil, whereas denying the concentrating on of Ukrainian civilians.

Wagner, identified for its brutality and effectiveness, had helped prop up Kremlin-aligned authoritarian governments in Syria, the Central African Republic and Mali, after which spearheaded Russia’s lengthy, in the end profitable battle to seize the metropolis of Bakhmut in jap Ukraine.

But for months, Mr. Prigozhin complained to his massive social media following that the Ministry of Defense and the army institution had been corrupt, inept and treacherously undercutting the battle effort. He stated the army leaders, jealous of his prominence and Wagner’s success, had withheld wanted gear from the mercenary pressure.

Then got here the authorities’s transfer to soak up mercenary forces into the Ministry of Defense, eliminating what independence Wagner had. Mr. Prigozhin protested, however Mr. Putin sided with the ministry.

The warlord stepped up his public complaints, unwilling to just accept that he had misplaced the political energy wrestle, and edged dangerously near criticizing Mr. Putin, himself. He even publicly rebutted the president’s rationale for battle — which Russia has handled in different instances as a prison offense — saying that Ukraine had posed no risk and was not managed by fascists.

With time running out for Wagner fighters to both disband or signal on with the army, Mr. Prigozhin in late June mounted his mutiny, which he stated was meant to topple the army management, not Mr. Putin.

Mr. Putin on Friday signed a decree requiring paramilitary fighters to swear an oath of loyalty to the nation, a step towards bringing them beneath Kremlin management.

To resolve the rebellion two months in the past with out open warfare, Mr. Lukashenko provided to let Mr. Prigozhin and his fighters relocate to Belarus. Some of them apparently did go there, however Mr. Prigozhin was repeatedly seen in St. Petersburg, in Moscow and in Africa.

Mr. Lukashenko stated on Friday that he was not chargeable for guaranteeing the Wagner chief’s safety.

Reporting was contributed by Victoria Kim, Shashank Bengali and Anton Troianovski.

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