Putin confidant approved plan to kill mercenary chief Prigozhin: WSJ

Putin confidant approved plan to kill mercenary chief Prigozhin: WSJ

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A top confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the plan to kill Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the security council for Russia, set in motion the operation to take out Prigozhin, according to a former Russian intelligence officer, per the Journal. The plans were later seen by Putin, who didn’t push back against them, Western intelligence agencies told the outlet.

Prigozhin died in a plane crash in August only a few months after he and his mercenary group launched a short-lived rebellion with a goal of ousting Russia’s defense minister.

The Kremlin has called claims that Putin was behind the crash “absolute lies,” but the Journal report provided new details linking one of the Russian leader’s top allies with the attack.

While Prigozhin was waiting for a security check on his plane before takeoff from Moscow in August, a small bomb was put under the wing, intelligence officials told the Journal. After the plane climbed some 28,000 feet, the wing blew apart, sending the plane plummeting and killing all 10 people on board, including Prigozhin.

Patrushev is a longtime ally of Putin who rose alongside him in the ranks of Russia’s security services since the 1970s. Though his position atop the country’s Security Council holds little formal power, he often represents Putin in sensitive talks with foreign countries. He is also believed to have orchestrated high-profile assassinations of dissidents and former spies.

Prigozhin was also a close Putin ally, beginning his business empire as a caterer to the Kremlin, before becoming a warlord whose private army was involved in mining and mercenary work across Africa. But his outspoken criticism of Russia’s military leaders amid the war in Ukraine began to sour that relationship even before Prigozhin’s mutiny.

President Biden suggested Putin was behind the crash on the day that it happened.

“There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind,” Biden told reporters.

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