Putin Responds After Prigozhin Killed Following Failed Coup Attempt: ‘Made Serious Mistakes’

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded on Thursday to the news that Wagner paramilitary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who failed in his attempt to overthrow the Russian government back in June, was killed in a plane crash this week, saying that Prigozhin made “serious mistakes.”

Video showed the plane that Prigozhin was on falling from the sky over Russia with a plume of white smoke hanging in the area where an explosion happened that caused the crash.

“I knew Prigozhin for a very long time, since the early ’90s,” Putin said. “He was a man of complicated fate, and he made serious mistakes in his life, but he achieved the right results. He was a talented person, a talented businessman, he worked not only in our country, and worked with results, but also abroad, in Africa, in particular.”

“He was involved there with oil, gas, precious metals and stones,” he said. “As far as I know, he just returned yesterday from Africa. He met some officials here. But what is quite definite — the head of the Investigative Committee reported to me this morning — is they have already begun a preliminary investigation into this event. And it will be carried out in full, and taken right to the end.”


News of Prigozhin’s death comes just a few hours after Russia removed General Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon,” as head of the country’s air force after he went missing during the attempted coup and was accused by some of playing a role in it.

Reuters reported that a top Russian official said on background: “Ex-chief of the Russian Air and Space Forces Sergei Surovikin has now been relieved of his post, while Colonel-General Viktor Afzalov, head of the main staff of the Air Force, is temporarily acting as commander-in-chief of the Air Force”.

Prigozhin served nearly a decade in prison after being convicted of “assault, robbery, and fraud” in 1981, according to Insider. After being released from prison, he made his living selling hot dogs on street corners and eventually started a catering business, where he eventually met Russian President Vladimir Putin — then a low-level government official.

His company, Concord Catering, started receiving contracts from the Russian government in the mid-to-late 1990s.

According to a Wall Street Journal documentary, the Russian government laundered money to Prigozhin through his catering company, which he eventually used to start Wagner — initially a small group of only a few hundred former Russian soldiers who were hired to do Russia’s bidding in Ukraine in 2014.

Having Wagner do Russia’s bidding gave the Russian government plausible deniability as the group engaged in dirty work. Russian government contracts to Concord Catering have reportedly been estimated to be well into the billions of dollars.

An expert on Wagner told The Wall Street Journal that it is best to think of the group as a “state-backed paramilitary cartel.” The group is accused of massacring and raping civilians and exploiting natural resources in poor countries with dire security situations. The resources — commodities like gold, oil, and gas — go back to the Russian government.

The group operates in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

The Wall Street Journal said that it identified 64 companies that are linked to Wagner and are used as front companies to move money and assets. The report said that the Kremlin is connected to all of it.

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