Kremlin confirms Prigozhin’s death: what does it mean?

Russian authorities have confirmed the death of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin. A DNA analysis revealed that Prigozhin was among those who died in a plane that crashed between Moscow and St. Petersburg last week. Europe’s press discusses the political fallout.

Novaya Gazeta Europe (RU) /

Public execution with a backdoor

Commenting in Novaya Gazeta Europa, veteran Israeli intelligence officer Sergei Migdal sees the incident as a brutal demonstration of power:

“Of all the different methods of killing, one of the clearest, loudest and most dangerous for bystanders was chosen in Prigozhin’s case. Fortunately, the plane did not crash into a populated area where there would have been many victims. The crew was killed in the process. ... This is a public lesson in absolute impunity. At the same time, the scenario of an explosion on board opens up the possibility for the authorities to turn the tables: the pro-Russian media and bloggers are already talking about Prigozhin having been killed on the orders of the head of Ukrainian military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov, or rder of the CIA or Islamic State.”

Sergej Migdal
Le Figaro (FR) /

Putin had good reason to be patient

The two months that have passed since Prigozhin’s mutiny were used to prepare this incident, Le Figaro suspects:

“In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the brutal death of anyone labelled a ‘traitor’ is only a matter of time. ... The intervening period was above all used to prepare for the consequences: to recycle mercenaries, reassure the African clientele, regain control of lucrative activities to be resumed under other aliases. And in recent months the Russian front in Ukraine has demonstrated that it is solid even without the Wagner fighters and Prigozhin’s ranting.”

Philippe Gélie
Dnevnik (SI) /

Kremlin boss back in the saddle

It’s clear who benefits most from Prigozhin’s death, Dnevnik writes:

“After the regime’s image of invulnerability was tarnished, the Wagner chief’s death reinforces Putin’s halo of invulnerability and irreplaceability. ... Because Putin hates disloyalty to him and to Russia, he apparently devised a much more terrifying punishment than has hitherto befallen political opponents, double agents, journalists or frightened tycoons. ... And it was frightening yesterday to listen to Russians telling foreign media that they had expected something like this to happen — and that they thought it was justified because no one should defy the president.”

Aleš Gaube
Adevărul (RO) /

No sign of a coup

Any hopes of Putin’s political career coming to an end seem increasingly unrealistic, says Adevărul:

“If the ‘system’ had really wanted Putin to be deposed, Prigozhin’s revolt would have been a quick and effective opportunity for a coup. But in reality, Wagner’s march on Moscow was just an ill-conceived whim, like that of a spoilt young man who owns a Lamborghini and crashes it into a a wall. A write-off. Almost two years after the war began we have to admit that the scenarios in which Putin is replaced or there’s a coup or a glorious and swift victory for the Ukrainians in the war are optimistic exaggerations.”

Gabriel Hora Nasra
444 (HU) /

A ticking time bomb

Russia’s president could still end up in trouble over this, says

“Prigozhin was probably not arrested or executed immediately after the rebellion because they didn’t want him to become a martyr. ... However, two months is not necessarily enough to change the minds of those who were receptive to Prigozhin’s criticism and celebrated the arrival of the Wagner tanks in Rostov. ... In a tribute post on the Telegram channel Grey Zone, which is affiliated with the Wagner Group, Prigozhin was described as a true, heroic patriot killed by Russia’s real traitors. ... So it is not entirely out of the question that with this final solution to one problem Putin has created several others that he will have to resolve even more aggressively and cruelly in the future.”

Dénes Csurgó
Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

The reckoning is coming

As the number of Putin’s remaining loyal allies dwindles, so do his prospects, Jyllands-Posten concludes:

“Prigozhin’s days were numbered ever since he set out on his march towards Moscow two months ago. Putin has never forgiven him for the brief loss of control. ... There was a score to be settled to prevent the incident from undermining Putin’s authority. ... A symptom of a spineless system, the Wagner Group can continue with a new leadership or be overtaken by one of the many militias Putin is in the habit of using. And in the end nothing will change. ... But the more rigorously Putin eliminates his henchmen, the more clearly the arrow points at him. The reckoning awaits.”

Alexei Roschin (RU) /

Aviation terrorism

Even Stalin took more pains to make the state look respectable, Russian sociologist Alexei Roshchin comments on Facebook:

“Getting all the ‘instigators’ on one plane and blowing it up is brutal. And if I may say so, it’s also aviation terrorism. And, if I may say so, what was stopping us from simply acting as if we lived in a proper state — in other words, arresting them all and putting them on trial for ‘treason’ — especially since Putin himself promised to do just that almost two months ago? Why the big show? People are quite rightly asking: what were the pilots of the Prigozhin jet guilty of? ... Even Stalin did not shy away from putting on show ‘trials’ to at least make it look as if everything was being done ‘according to the law’.”

Alexei Roschtschin
La Stampa (IT) /

Putin’s power based on servile state

Prigozhin miscalculated the limits of his influence, says La Stampa:

“He was powerful, but he thought he was powerful enough to threaten Vladimir Putin’s power system — no doubt eager to make a distinction between the president and the court of generals surrounding him. ... Prigozhin’s mistake was perhaps to believe that Putin would listen to his message, sack Shoigu, the defence minister whom (Prigozhin) detested, and ride the wave of insurrection that was to be more nationalistic than the Putinian state itself. But it is precisely upon this servile state and its foolish courtiers that Vladimir Putin has built his power. ... There is no place in this system for a crazy outlier like Yevgeny Prigozhin.”

Stefano Stefanini
Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

No improvement of the overall situation

Rzeczpospolita comments:

“If confirmed, would the death of the leader of the Wagner Group have an impact on issues we associate with Prigozhin? On the war in Ukraine, Russian operations in Africa, or provocations on Belarus’s border with the West? Unlikely. No one is irreplaceable, not even among bandits. Russia will not give up anything that was achieved with the help of Prigozhin and his mercenaries. Worse still, the liquidation of the head of the Wagner Group would send a signal to Russians that one must be of use to the Kremlin not just every now and then, but always.”

Jerzy Haszczyński
The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Wagner not finished yet

Prigozhin’s death will not silence critics in Russian leadership circles, The Daily Telegraph predicts:

“This crash will not be the end of internal Russian military disputes. There remains a large number of trained and active Wagner fighters, battle-hardened by combat in Ukraine or pillaging in Africa, who are highly disaffected with the leadership of their country. Indeed, some young Russians found Prigozhin’s message convincing, believing that Putin launched a war that has not been properly prosecuted. This will become a bigger problem the longer this ‘special military operation’ drags on.”