Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Russian presidency, described the statements from Western officials suggesting that the Kremlin was behind the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the magnate and leader of the Wagner mercenaries who died in a plane crash on the previous Wednesday, as an absolute falsehood.
Many speculations surround this air catastrophe and the tragic death of the jet’s passengers, including Yevgeny Prigozhin. These speculations are presented from a certain angle in the West, and they are an absolute lie, Peskov responded to a reporter from the BBC in London who asked him to comment on the numerous statements from Western officials that point to the Kremlin ordering Prigozhin’s death.
Putin’s spokesperson, who reappeared yesterday in his daily video conference with reporters from the presidential source, after cutting his vacation short and returning to Moscow earlier than planned, recommended that everyone base their opinions on facts when discussing this matter. He admitted that there are currently few facts known since the investigation has not yet concluded.
Peskov reminded that Russian President Putin already spoke about this incident (on Thursday). The president indicated that the results of the investigation must be awaited, that it will be conducted thoroughly, and it should conclude soon.
Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus and a Russian ally, also backed his Russian counterpart from Minsk. He responded to the media about the version that a bomb exploded on Prigozhin’s plane: “I cannot say who did it. I will not act as an attorney, not even for my older brother (Putin). But I know Putin well, I know he is a calculating person, very calm, and even slow when making decisions about less complex matters… Honestly, I cannot even imagine that he did it, that he is guilty (of ordering Prigozhin’s death). If you rush me for an opinion, I think the perpetrators did a very clumsy, unprofessional job. It’s not like Putin, according to the official news agency of the neighboring country, Belta.”
Lukashenko surprised by saying that he never gave security guarantees to Prigozhin. However, during the press conference that narrated his mediation on June 24th, when he convinced the leader of the Wagner group to stop his so-called march for justice 200 kilometers from Moscow, he did mention that essential commitment to seal the pact between the insurgents and the Kremlin.
Instead, the Belarusian leader revealed that in early 2023, he warned Prigozhin that, according to deep intelligence sources, an attack against him was being prepared. At that time, Prigozhin was leading the assault on the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
Lukashenko learned, according to his own words, the last time he traveled to the United Arab Emirates: “I received serious information from deep intelligence sources, those that cannot operate any deeper. Immediately, I asked to locate the Russian ambassador. When he appeared before me, I gave him a coded telegram for the Kremlin and the FSB (Federal Security Service).” He added, “Then I asked Prigozhin, and he confirmed to me that Putin had warned him.”
Meanwhile, the head of the Kremlin signed a decree yesterday that obligates all those involved in the special military operation in armed formations, be they mercenary groups (even though Russian law prohibits this activity) or volunteer units, to swear allegiance to the Russian flag. This is interpreted as another step to subordinate such fighters to the Ministry of Defense, fighters who, as was the case with the legally nonexistent Wagner group, only follow the orders of those who hire them.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, responsible for the air crash investigation, issued a statement yesterday confirming that they had found the 10 bodies of the people who died when the Embraer crashed, as well as the jet’s black boxes.
The agency said that time is needed for DNA analysis and to decipher the flight recorders.