US President Joe Biden has raised the possibility that Russia’s Vladimir Putin might be connected to the fatal plane crash that claimed the life of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin on Wednesday.
“There is not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not behind. However, I don’t know enough to know the answer,” Biden told reporters.
Biden received a briefing soon after media reports indicated that Prigozhin was aboard a flight travelling from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.
The former Putin confidante and mercenary chief had recently surfaced in an African video following his escape from Russia after an unsuccessful mutiny against the Russian army in June.
US officials stated they would not be shocked by the accuracy of reports regarding Prigozhin’s death.
Media associated with Wagner claimed that the Russian Defense Ministry had downed the private jet.
“We have seen the reports. If confirmed, no one should be surprised,” a White House National Security Council spokeswoman said.
Analysts suggested that the incident might serve as Putin’s warning to potential betrayers or a display of support for the Russian military, which Prigozhin had undermined through a failed armed mutiny in June.
Last month, Biden and CIA Director Williams Burns separately discussed, albeit somewhat jokingly, the potential risk to Prigozhin due to his actions.
“If I were he, I’d be careful what I ate. I’d be keeping my eye on my menu,” Biden said during a news conference with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto in July, as cited by Reuters.
“But all kidding aside…I don’t think any of us know for sure what the future of Prigozhin is in Russia.”
A week later, CIA Director William Burns remarked, “I think Putin is someone who generally thinks that revenge is a dish best-served cold … If I were Prigozhin, I would not fire my food taster.”
Prigozhin’s June mutiny concluded with negotiations and a perceived Kremlin agreement for him to relocate to Belarus. However, he moved within Russia without constraints following the deal.