MOSCOW: The Kremlin said on Friday (Aug 25) that Western suggestions that Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had been killed on its orders were an “absolute lie” and declined to definitively confirm his death, citing the need to wait for test results.
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday sent his condolences to Prigozhin’s family, breaking his silence after the mercenary leader’s plane crashed on Wednesday evening with no survivors two months after he led a mutiny against army chiefs.
Putin cited “preliminary information” as indicating that Prigozhin and his top associates in the Wagner mercenary group had been killed.
Russian investigators have opened a probe into what happened, but have not yet said what they suspect caused the plane to suddenly fall from the sky northwest of Moscow.
Nor have they officially confirmed the identities of the 10 bodies recovered from the wreckage.
Western politicians and commentators have suggested that Putin ordered Prigozhin killed to punish him for launching a failed Jun 23 to Jun 24 mutiny against the top brass which represented the biggest challenge to Putin’s rule yet.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the accusation and many others like it were false.
“There is now a great deal of speculation surrounding this plane crash and the tragic deaths of the plane’s passengers, including Yevgeny Prigozhin. Of course, in the West, all this speculation is presented from a well-known angle,” Peskov told reporters.
“All of this is an absolute lie, and here, when covering this issue, it is necessary to base yourself on facts. There are not many facts yet. They need to be established in the course of investigative actions.”
Peskov said that it was important to wait for the results of various tests as well as the outcome of the investigation.
He said Putin had not met Prigozhin recently.