Vladimir Putin’s Russia could have handed Kyiv a huge boost after Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was reportedly killed when a private jet crashed just outside Moscow.
As the leader of Wagner, Prigozhin had controlled the private military group as it worked alongside the Kremlin as Russian forces battled into Ukraine. But the warlord became critical of Putin’s administration and refused to sign a contract placing the Wagner soldier’s under government control.
Prigozhin even went as far as suggesting the move prompted Russia to fire missile strikes at Wagner. It led to an attempted Wagner rebellion, that saw the group taking the Russian city Rostov-on-Don before marching towards Moscow.
It was eventually called off and Prigozhin was reportedly exiled to Belarus. The move was a far cry from April, where Wagner troops fought to help Russia seize control of large sections of Bahkmut in Ukraine.
READ MORE: MI6 expert identifies two Wagner chiefs he thinks could bring terror on Putin
Now, with Prigozhin and alleged Wagner Group co-founder and former hitman Dmitry Utkin reportedly dying in a plane crash just outside Moscow, families in Kyiv have been celebrating. BBC Newsnight reporter Mike Urban said people were celebrating in the streets after the news broke.
He said: “People in the city were literally gleeful. They were laughing, they were joking, they were all the predicatable humour about ‘we expected Prigozhin to fall from a great heigh, but not that great a height’, that sort of thing.
“The soldiers we were talking to, some of them had actually been fighting the Wagner Group in Bahkmut. And of course, for them, Wagner are the people who tortured, captured, and murdered Ukrainian soldiers, but were also formidible battlefield opponants.”
The incident has also prompted some Wagner soldiers who are stationed in Belarus to switch their focus onto Russia. They sent an angry message urging the Kremlin to “gret ready” for them.
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A statement released by Wagner soldiers in Belarus reads: “There’s a lot of talk right now about what the Wagner Group will do. We can tell you one thing. We are getting started, get ready for us.”
While Wagner-linked Telegram channels says the group now insists that the “Kremlin will be taken”.
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