Wagner Group mercenaries

Wagner Group mercenaries are gearing up for ‘full mobilisation’ amid news their leaders Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin were killed in a plane crash near Moscow – though their deaths have not officially been confirmed.


Russian outlet Readovka, closely linked with Prigozhin, reported that the private military company had a ‘long-established approved mechanism of action in the event of the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin or Dmitry Utkin’.


A source told the outlet: ‘In the event of Prigozhin’s death, there is a mechanism for ”full mobilisation” – regardless of who was at fault for his death.’


Wagner-linked channels posted a series of vengeful messages following the crash, vowing retribution if their leader is confirmed dead and declaring the people responsible ‘traitors’ to Russia.

‘There’s a lot of talk right now about what the Wagner Group will do. We can tell you one thing,’ mercenaries said in one video.
‘We are getting started, get ready for us.’


It comes as former head of MI6 Sir John Sawyers told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘All the indications point to the fact that Putin has taken him out, he is reasserting his control.

‘He is making clear to everyone both inside Russia and outside he is not going to brook any challenge.

‘There is a slim chance he (Prigozhin) is not dead, and he wasn’t on that plane – he will be soon.’


The ex-spy added that security services would be able to detect if a missile had brought down the aircraft, but said he believed there was a ‘device on board which brought it down suddenly’.


Sir John concluded that it was a warning to other would-be rebels to ‘toe the line’.


Christopher Steele, who was with the Secret Intelligence Service and ran the MI6 Russia desk, added to Sir John’s comments, arguing that downing Prigozhin’s plane would line up with ‘a pattern of state-backed activity’.


‘I would suspect very much that it was an FSB (Russian domestic intelligence service) or GRU (military intelligence service) operation,’ Steele said, pointing out the plane crash followed ‘just one day after General (Sergei) Surovikin was sacked from his job which was to be in charge of the security over the Russian homeland.


‘He was seen as somebody that was one of the generals who was supporting Prigozhin and was an ally of his. For him to have been removed a day before does rather suggest a pattern of state-backed activity here.’


However, Prigozhin’s death has not yet been officially confirmed, leading to speculation the Wagner chief may still be alive.


This is not the first time the Wagner chief has been declared dead in an aviation accident – in October 2019, an An-27 military aircraft crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Prigozhin believed to be aboard – only for him to emerge unscathed three days later.


And Keir Giles, of think tank Chatham House, said multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeny Prigozhin as part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels and protect himself from assassination.


‘Let’s not be surprised if he pops up shortly in a new video from Africa,’ he said.


Telegram channels with links to Prigozhin announced his death on Friday night shortly after news of the crash, and claimed it was caused by ‘traitors’ within Russia.


Russian officials also claimed Prigozhin was on the plane, which crashed in a field, killing all ten onboard, just two months after his failed coup attempt against Putin’s regime.


The Federal Air Transport Agency published a list of those it believed were on the flight, including Prigozhin and Utkin.

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