Yevgeny Prigozhin Assassinated

The Wagner chief is presumed dead after his plane was shot down.

BBC (“Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin presumed dead after Russia plane crash“):

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the passenger list of a jet which crashed killing all on board, Russia’s civil aviation authority has said.

Earlier, Wagner-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone reported the Embraer aircraft was shot down by air defences in the Tver region, north of Moscow.

The jet, which was flying from the capital to St Petersburg, was carrying seven passengers and three crew.

Prigozhin led a failed mutiny against the Russian armed forces in June.

Grey Zone said local residents heard two bangs before the crash and saw two vapour trails.

Tass news agency said the plane, a private Embraer Legacy, caught fire on hitting the ground, adding that four bodies had already been found.

The aircraft had been in the air for less than half an hour, it said.

The 62-year-old mercenary boss headed the mutiny on 23-24 June, moving his troops from Ukraine, seizing the southern Russian city of Rostov on Don, and threatening to march on Moscow.

The move came after months of tension with Russian military commanders over the Ukraine conflict.

The stand-off was settled by a deal which allowed Wagner troops to move to Belarus, or join the Russian army.

Prigozhin himself agreed to relocate to Belarus but has apparently been able to move freely, being seen in Russia and also reportedly visiting Africa.

It’s a shame he didn’t take Putin with him. But, to paraphrase Omar, you come at the autocrat, you best not mess.

The jokes are flying hard and fast over at Bluesky which, alas, is not yet embeddable in WordPress. My favorite thus far is from XO of all XOs: “Question: how do you push an entire plane out a window?”

Dan Murphy wins a set of steak knives for “This is the moment where I’d typically say ‘a plane crash is usually just a plane crash’ but in Russia, plane crashes you.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, World Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mikey says:

    This is, I am sure, the least surprising news of the day. One only wonders if Prigozhin really understood he was living on borrowed time.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    If confirmed this is most interesting as regards Wagner’s activities in Africa and Syria. Who takes over? Does anyone take over, or is Wagner disbanded or subsumed entirely? Did Putin just lose a valuable rook or did he just sacrifice an annoying pawn? Without Prigozhin will Russia back out of Africa? So many questions force me to say it: OTWT. Only time will tell.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Reports are that Wagner co-founder Dmitry Utkin was also on the plane. If so, I can’t imagine who’d be interested in stepping in and risking a similar fate.

  4. Daryl says:

    If Prigozhin was really on that plane, 100 miles from Moscow, then he is a dumb fuqer.
    But definitely NOT as dumb as the people who got on the plane with him.

  5. Andy says:

    Uncharacteristically dramatic for the Russians, clearly Putin wants to send a strong message.

    What’s this Bluesky thing? Wikipedia tells me it’s an invite-only Twitter spinoff. Is this where all the people who hate Musk are going?

  6. Modulo Myself says:

    Like Lenin said, you look for the person who will benefit, and uh, you know…

  7. becca says:

    I actually hope Prig was not on the plane, but Putin is convinced he was. Have these guys never seen an Avengers movie?

  8. Joe says:


    But definitely NOT as dumb as the people who got on the plane with him.

    My very first thought, exactly!

  9. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds: If Prig is really gone (thoughts n prayers homie), what does this mean for Russia’s campaign in Ukraine? Was Wagner not Putin’s best offensive force in Ukraine? Russian troops are now dug-in defensively, are they done with an offensive push?

    And what happens now to all those Wagner mercenaries in Belarus?

    O! the drama. I got Vin Diesel playing Prigozhin in the movie.

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    I can go along with Vin Diesel as Prig. But Jonathan Banks would work, too. (Incidentally, he’s the guy I’d get to play me. In a really boring movie.) BTW Surovikin, head of Russian air forces – and reputedly a buddy of Prigozhin’s – was removed from the job just prior to the Russian air defense forces blowing Prig out of the sky.

    Surely just a coincidence. One of those Russian coincidences that has drunken Russian soldiers supposedly being careless with cigarettes at the exact same time as a Ukrainian HIMARS blows shit up.

    I think Wagner is mostly out of Ukraine. They were an offensive force, I doubt they’d add much to sitting in a trench waiting for the next Ukrainian/American cluster round.

  11. Gustopher says:

    Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin presumed dead after Russia plane crash

    A lot of people presumed he was dead before that plane crash.

    Did we ever find out why he turned around his March on Moscow? I assume Putin was threatening his family, or a pet, but I’m slightly curious.

  12. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But Jonathan Banks would work, too.

    Ooooooh yes. I’m here for it.

    Reminds me I need to finish Better Call Saul. I’m not good with grusesome violence and have to take breaks.

  13. Scott says:

    @DK: @Michael Reynolds: Don’t you all think that Michael has a passing resemblance to Prigozhin?

  14. dazedandconfused says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Unlikely we’ve seen the last of Wagner in Ukraine. Rolling on Moscow rendered them temporarily undeployable so they were moved to Belarus to await new leadership. Won’t be long now…

  15. DK says:


    Don’t you all think that Michael has a passing resemblance to Prigozhin?

    Are you suggesting Prigozhin has been moonlighting as a YA author and has finally faked his death to purse his true passion as a Las Vegas denizen and OTB dilletante?

    I’m just asking questions.

  16. JohnSF says:

    Interesting aspect:
    Putin has often tried to use state “legal” processes to deal with challengers and internal rivalries.
    Not this time, for whatever reason.
    A “cowboy” job: screw the collateral damage.

    And the means.
    Direct action by the military ie Shoigu/Gerasimov; who had personal reasons for wanting Prigozhin permanently gone.

    “Stone dead hath no fellow.”
    (As Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, said of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford.)

  17. James Joyner says:


    What’s this Bluesky thing? Wikipedia tells me it’s an invite-only Twitter spinoff. Is this where all the people who hate Musk are going?

    Pretty much. I don’t hate Musk, who has the right to do what he wants with his multi-billion dollar toy, but he’s essentially ruined Twitter. When he killed off TweetDeck for those not willing to pay him a fee, it was pretty much the last straw for me. I check every couple days to see if there’s a direct message but otherwise just use Bluesky now.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    Better Call Saul is one of the best TV shows ever, and it just gets better with each season, leading to a fantastically well-done (and well-acted) finale. I particularly appreciate the beautiful camera work. The show just refuses to take a predictable, pedestrian shot. Set a scene in a parking garage and somehow BCS finds a way to make it extraordinary.

    If Rhea Seahorn doesn’t get an Emmy, Hollywood deserves to be washed away into the Pacific.

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    Now that I think about it I never have seen myself and Prigozhin in the same place at the same time.

  20. JohnSF says:

    Just heard report almost entire high command of Wagner was on the plane; or possibly TWO planes. Second last reported diverting back to Moscow. (Iffy, so take with salt).
    Seems they were returning from Africa, where a lot of the core teams had moved via Belarus.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    I can’t imagine who’d be interested in stepping in

    Someone whose career goal is “leader of proxy army for autocrat?” I can’t imagine who this person would be, though. Then again, I’m not sure I understood the Wagner Group, either.

  22. Kylopod says:

    They figured defenestratsiya was getting old.

  23. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: it’s been kind of impressive to see Musk do everything that common wisdom says makes a social platform worse, and then we can see that the common wisdom was correct. Contrarian thinking is usually wrong.

    Aside from platforming Nazis, TERFs and other awful humans, he’s also prioritized the content producer over the content consumer, and then allowed people to pay to prioritize their own content (blue-check posts are basically ads for bad takes, dumb thoughts and trolls)

    Basically, he’s increased the number of ads N-fold, and reduced the quality of the ads until they are frequently offensive. And he’s surprised that real advertisers are fleeing.

  24. dazedandconfused says:


    My guess is Prigo was surrounded by elaborate protection details. Bodyguards of the most heavily armed type (he had a frickin’ army), carefully selected food service people, friends with connections who might reveal moles…the whole nine yards. The options were limited.

  25. dazedandconfused says:


    I have two words for you and Michael:

    Mike Meyers.

  26. JohnSF says:

    From Vitaly Shevchenko, Russia editor at BBC Monitoring:

    Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia publishes full list of people declared as travelling on board the crashed plane:

    Propustin Sergey
    Makaryan Evgeniy
    Totmin Aleksandr
    Chekalov Valeriy
    Utkin Dmitriy
    Matuseev Nikolay
    Prigozhin Evgeniy

    3 crew members

    Core of Wagner senior command.
    (Utkin in particular was the the head of Wagner ops Africa, IIRC. And a massive arsehole.)
    Shame, eh?

  27. Jay L Gischer says:

    Man, first it was Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Then it was Ronnie van Zandt and Steve Gaines. Then Otis Redding and also John Denver.

    Now we can add Evgeniy Prigozhin and his group, the Wagners, to that list, because man, they are never gonna get that band back together.

  28. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Thanks. I don’t use Twitter much at all, so haven’t kept up on developments.


    I guess the “3 crew members” are like red shirts in Star Trek – so expendable their names don’t matter.

  29. Jay L Gischer says:

    I’m here trying to think of a single other instance in history where so much of the leadership of a single organization were killed in the same action. Wagner Group was not a small operation in the slightest.

    Assassinations usually take out one guy, or maybe two. I can’t think of another instance where any organization has been so thoroughly decapitated. I would expect that Wagner will not be able to make payroll on its next cycle. I expect most of its employees are already wondering about that and deciding how they are going to cope.

  30. Kathy says:

    BBC Russia has video of the crash site and the plane coming down

    Go to about 22 seconds in to see the plane in a stall or spin. I can’t tell from the images what happened, but it’s trailing smoke or something.

  31. becca says:

    @JohnSF: was there not a designated survivor?
    These people aren’t even trying to play the game anymore.

  32. Lounsbury says:

    Reminder Mr Prigo has been delcared dead in suspicous plane crash before (of course from that video this one rahter looks like SAM induced…). Plane passenger list and actual persons may or may not be reliable.
    (that so many Wagner leadership are on the same plane at once seems strikingly too convenient – not to be excluded but also makes one wonder if they might not have done a bit of baiting in passenger manifest)

  33. Lounsbury says:

    @Kathy: There is another version or view starting earlier which captures frames which include a smoke signature that rather is similar to what one sees in video of SAM successes in Ukraine. Of course some out of context frames not subject to my knowledge to proper analysis…

    On other hand Financial Times has sources inside Russia saying air defence did indeed shoot down Wagner’s plane returning from Africa.

  34. JohnSF says:

    Well, Mikhail Mizintsev aka (to me) Nosferatu Jr, more generally as the Butcher of Mariupol, is currently of unknown location.
    But as he was a RuMoD insider attached to Wagner (as an overseer, it seems) he may be able to weasel his way out of the cull.

  35. becca says:

    I would not be surprised if Prig has been dead or “dead” since his much publicized revolt. John Le Carre’s words that what is reported and what is truth have no relation to reality.

  36. Kathy says:

    I wonder how Mad Vlad feels about the extensive coverage Prigozhin’s assassination is getting.

  37. de stijl says:

    Putin isn’t even trying to hide blatant assassination anymore.

    I mean, it was always extremely obvious, but deniable.

    I’m surprised Britain maintains diplomatic relations with Russia after all of the assassinations that they have done there.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    All good things come to those who wait.

    The next coup plotter won’t make the same mistakes.

  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: I’m surprised Britain maintains diplomatic relations with Russia after all of the assassinations that they have done there.

    Have you seen how much British banks’ balance sheets are balanced with Russian Rubles?

  40. Lounsbury says:

    @becca: as he was physically filmed and seen in West Africa in person, last week, he’s been neither dead nor “dead” rather was fishing for yellowcake

  41. Lounsbury says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: he hasn’t but neither have you. Rubles were hardly the London vehicle, dollars rather. Into real estate.

    But City interests are very much back seat and not very explanatory for Conservative Party policy since 2016 in, even in areas of core City interest.

  42. @Michael Reynolds:

    If Rhea Seahorn doesn’t get an Emmy, Hollywood deserves to be washed away into the Pacific.


  43. JohnSF says:

    Relatively trivial amount in total.
    I did some some sums a couple of years back, but can’t find them now.
    £82 billion in funds.
    Sounds (is) a lot; but next to the £11 trillion of UK managed assets, it’s “meh”; small change to the City.

    What was NOT small change in relation to the pool was the Russian share in the London high end property market, and other special services in the London ecosystem.
    Donation chasing Tory politicians, private wealth reinvestment fund managers, reputation managers, “tax efficiency” accountants, shady lobbyists, libel lawyers, young ladies of negotiable affection…

    That’s enough people making a lot of private money to put a finger on the scales, unfortunately.

  44. DrDaveT says:

    Belated kudos for the Yakov Smirnov reference.

  45. gVOR10 says:

    @de stijl:

    Putin isn’t even trying to hide blatant assassination anymore.
    I mean, it was always extremely obvious, but deniable.

    After the near success of the coup, Putin needed to show everybody he’s still strong and still boss. Obvious but deniable is exactly what he wants. I see the Russian government is forming a special commission to investigate, bypassing the normal bureaucracy . Somehow I expect their report will find it was an accident, but not entirely convincingly.

  46. MarkedMan says:

    Wow, my reaction was so different. For chrissakes, Putin is head of a country, one capable of reaching (albeit crashing on) the moon. And the way he deals with a coup d’etat, a rebellion is to… pretend the coup leader is just another guy and then assasinate him without comment? A real government arrests people, tries them and then executes them for treason. Even a sham banana republic would arrest them and stands them up against a wall and shoots them. Putin assassinates them and then makes no comment? Is he a head of state or a second rate mafia don?

  47. Ebenezer_Arvignius says:

    Did we ever find out why he turned around his March on Moscow? I assume Putin was threatening his family, or a pet, but I’m slightly curious.

    My personal theory was always that it was essentially a big miscalculation all around.

    Prigozhin was squeezed out by the army command who wanted to take over his recruiting and supplies. He calculated that he had shown sufficient loyalty and military success that when he “revolted” against the corrupt army, Putin would choose his best horse and put him in command instead.

    Putin on the other hand came up as a Mafia boss and reacted to perceived disloyalty with immediate death threats. After that Prigozhin was forced to actually execute his revolt by marching on Moscow to save his own hide. Explains both the strange timeline and the half-assed march with limited assets starting from nowhere.

    After Putin relented (seeing that he basically had no heavy assets between Moscow and Prigozhin – even if the whole thing was no real danger to Putin himself that would have been a major loss of face during an already desastrous campaign) and promised Prigozhin would get out alive and even keep most of his wealth, Prigozhin climbed down that specific tree as fast as he could. Putin however still needed to repair his public image, thus airplane.

  48. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Mike Ehrmentraut. You look like Jonathon Banks.

    My realtor has a son in LA who plays golf with Banks weekly. Apparently he is a very good and cool dude. I trust that hearsay. He just seems like a good dude.

    People tell me I look like Willem Dafoe today. Not a self-considered thing, multiple people have told me. Possibly, I look like Dafoe. I am skinny and have a fairly bony face. I don’t see it, but I can kinda see it.

    Being compared to perhaps the sexiest man alive is pretty damn cool. I must admit that.

    When I was young people thought I looked like Rick Astley. That was thoroughly annoying! I was told repeatedly by many folks that I looked like Rick Astley.

    Considering how important Rick Astley was to internet memes and Rick-rolling, I should be mollified. I ain’t. I hated it.


    Okay, this is very embarrassing. In my callow youth I was a male model. I was in TV ads. I was in catalogs. I was in magazine ads. I did a runway thing twice. I had a manager who booked me on gigs. Mostly for local and mostly for Dayton’s which used to be the premiere upper Midwest department store north west of Chicago. Dayton’s is now Target.

    Hey, it was good money. Well earned. I wasn’t sexually exploited although two people tried. Green is green. And a lot of shoots it was cash. I had a look. I was skinny punk boy with apparently attractive legs. I knew how to shut up and do as I was told.

    I did a lot of leg stuff for catalogs. Swim trunks and shorts. They put fake tanning crap on my legs – I am pretty white.

    I was taking a Marketing class at St. Thomas and the professor asked me if I wanted to be in a commercial. He was a commercial director. An ad for Grain Belt beer.

    I was (am) 5’10” and a smidgen. For super fashion shots I stood on a riser that made me look like I was 6’2″ in comparison to the female model. That was a bit emasculating. I mostly didn’t care.

    Hey, money is money.

    I got to meet, interact with, hang around with extraordinarily hot girls way out of my league. About 70% of the time on any shoot is waiting around so they can light it properly. So you mostly just hang out, bullshit, and smoke cigarettes. Low-key flirt. For a few years I dated way higher than I should have.

    Modeling is an extremely boring job. It’s mostly waiting around.

  49. DK says:


    Is he a head of state or a second rate mafia don?

    Putin is incompetent. We been knew. For at least two years now.

    What’s the chance ole Priggy Boy is chillin in the Cayman Islands with 2Pac and Elvis? I’m just asking questions ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  50. dazedandconfused says:


    “Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”

    We watched Knives Out last night. Pretty good flick. Seems to me it demonstrated how a great script can gather a passel of talent without a mega-budget. Great actors can and will jump at a chance to enjoy their work.

  51. de stijl says:


    Check out Glass Onion.

  52. Kylopod says:

    @dazedandconfused: @de stijl: I loved Knives Out. I liked Glass Onion.

    I loved how both movies take this old, almost completely outdated genre of the traditional private eye, and then they layer on top of it this very modern social/political satire about–well, basically, rich people being venial, self-centered, shallow, entitled assholes. Both movies are very funny, but also work as thrillers. They’re filled with a range of great actors having a blast. I don’t think Trump’s name is ever mentioned in the first film but it’s very much a movie about the Trump era. The second movie is, of course, about Elon Musk. And it was made a few years before he took over Twitter and most liberals realized what an absolute buffoon he is.

  53. Fog says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Don’t forget Putin’s assassination of the president of Poland and 95 others in a plane crash in 2010 that decapitated the government and military leadership.