Some members of the Wagner Group mercenary army are blaming the Kremlin for the apparent death of founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose plane crashed Wednesday during a flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
Along with Mr. Prigozhin, a one-time hotdog vendor turned wealthy oligarch, at least nine people are believed to have been killed when the business jet went down. The crash victims included Valery Chekalov, the mercenary group’s logistics chief, and Wagner Group Cmdr. Dmitry Utkin.
The news site Readovka, which is thought to have links to the Wagner Group, said the mercenary organization has a “mechanism of action” in place in the event of the deaths of Mr. Prigozhin or Mr. Utkin. Readovka reported that a Wagner Group “council of commanders” is meeting to decide the next step.
While the official investigation of the crash is continuing, some rank-and-file Wagner Group fighters are apparently ready to avenge the death of their founder.
“We suspect Kremlin officials led by Putin in an attempt to kill him. If the information about the death of Prigozhin is confirmed, we will organize the second March of Justice to Moscow,” the Wagner Play channel on the Telegram social messaging site posted Thursday.
A one-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Prigozhin fell out of favor after leading an aborted mutiny in late June against the Kremlin’s military leaders, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff. While Mr. Prigozhin was allowed to relocate to Belarus without charges being filed against him, observers expected Mr. Putin — a former KGB officer — would eventually exact revenge.
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