Kremlin angrily rejects accusations Putin behind Prigozhin plane crash: 'An absolute lie'

Kremlin angrily rejects accusations Putin behind Prigozhin plane crash: ‘An absolute lie’

Top Kremlin officials on Friday angrily rejected suggestions that the death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was an assassination ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite widespread belief in the West that the Russian leader ordered a hit against his most powerful rival.

“All this is an absolute lie,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. 

The denials from Mr. Peskov came a day after U.S. officials told The Associated Press that the leading American theory is that an explosion on board brought down the Embraer Legacy 600 business jet carrying Mr. Prigozhin and six other passengers on Wednesday.

All seven passengers are presumed dead, along with three crew members. The jet was flying from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.

After the crash, suspicion immediately turned to Mr. Putin and his inner circle. Top Putin critics over the past two decades have a history of dying, or almost dying, under mysterious circumstances. The death of Mr. Prigozhin may have been payback for the short-lived Wagner Group rebellion earlier this summer, during which Mr. Prigozhin mounted arguably the most serious challenge to the Putin regime in its 23-year history.

But the Kremlin says those allegations are simply part of the West’s agenda to demonize Mr. Putin.

SEE ALSO: Putin breaks silence on apparent Prigozhin death; plane crash possibly caused by explosion

“Now, of course, there is a lot of speculation around this catastrophe and around the tragic death of the passengers of the plane, including Yevgeny Prigozhin. Of course, in the West, all these speculations are served from a certain angle. All this is an absolute lie,” Mr. Peskov said.

Mr. Putin broke his silence on the crash Thursday afternoon and praised the Wagner Group’s contributions to Moscow’s war in Ukraine, but he also made it a point to single out the “serious mistakes in life” made by Mr. Prigozhin.

After the Wagner Group’s mutiny in June, U.S. officials expected that Mr. Putin would eventually seek revenge against Mr. Prigozhin.

“In my experience, Putin is the ultimate apostle of payback,” CIA Director William Burns said last month. “So I would be surprised if Prigozhin escapes further retribution for this.”