Russian war in Ukraine
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Yevgeny Prigozhin: His days were numbered

After his death, Putin will be at peace with the mutineers, but it will be a new setback for the Kremlin

Yevgeny Prigozhin
Yevgeny Prigozhin, on April 8 in Moscow.YULIA MOROZOVA (REUTERS)
Lluís Bassets

Putin does not forgive. Could anyone think otherwise after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed coup and betrayal, in which dozens of soldiers were killed by the Wagner Group’s mutinous mercenaries? This is how the mafia takes action, and Russia — which has become a mafia state par excellence under the cold and iron-fisted authority of Vladimir Putin — was not going to do otherwise.

It was just a matter of waiting for the right moment, exactly two months after the failed uprising. Russian official sources have confirmed that Prigozhin was aboard a plane that crashed north of Moscow, killing all on board. But there is always that chance that this was a setup so that Prigozhin could disappear from the map and save himself from persecution. In this version, Prigozhin signed up for the deadly flight, but secretly got on another plane — a feat fit for a mafia boss.

In either case, Putin comes out stronger if we are looking at the internal correlation of forces in the mafia power group. But his cause is not any stronger. The death of the billionaire head of Wagner’s mercenaries — a group that murders, tortures and rapes —, and the death of his right-hand man — who was also on the flight — will be celebrated by Ukrainians, who have suffered most directly from his criminal actions. Putin will be at peace with the mutineers, but it is a new setback for the Kremlin, one more in the string that make up its ill-fated invasion of Ukraine.

This type of event requires some plausible explanation from Russian authorities, although there is concern it may never arrive. The circumstances of Prigozhin’s death also leave room for doubt. But the footage of the plane in free-fall and the sound of two detonations before the crash seriously raises the possibility that the plane was attacked or shot down by a Russian military battery. In any case, the crash has the same features of a selective assassination, in which a murder is carried out with precision, economy and sobriety of means, and blame can be denied.

This is how things work in a large part of the wars of the 21st century, in accordance with the most obvious methods of the Putin regime in its liquidation of former agents, spies, traitors and dissidents. And this is how the mafia acts, although it usually does so with more discretion. Making a scene, however, is a way to make an example of someone. In this case, the spectacle is on social media, where video of the plane plummeting to earth and then exploding on the ground has gone viral. It is within those roaring flames where the deadly warlord and Putin condottiero supposedly met his end.

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