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Yevgeny Prigozhin, Rostov-on-Don
A screengrab of Russian Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner Group mercenaries, broadcasting from inside the Russian Military Southern District headquarters on June 24, 2023, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Photo credit: © Pool /Wagner Group/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire

According to the state-run Russian news outlet RIA, Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the passenger list of a private jet that went down in the Tver region about 60 miles north of Moscow.

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In the least surprising news of the year, it appears as though Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, died in a plane crash in Russia on Wednesday, two months to the day after he staged an ill-fated mutiny against the country’s military leadership that made President Valdimir Putin look weak.

According to the state-run Russian news outlet RIA, Prigozhin was on the passenger list of a private jet that went down in the Tver region about 60 miles north of Moscow. It was not immediately clear whether the Wagner chief was actually on the plane, which was headed from Russia’s capital to St. Petersburg. However, it would seem likely based on the simple fact that critics and adversaries of Putin seem particularly accident-prone.

Many of them clumsily fall out of windows or down elevator shafts or, as might have happened in this case, get on planes that crash.

In addition, Putin critics who are living abroad have picked up the nasty habit of ingesting poison.

In total, the plane crash reportedly killed 10 people — three crew members and seven passengers.

That is really the most baffling part of this story. Who in their right mind would get on a plane carrying somebody on Putin’s hit list?

It seems as though everybody in Russia would know better, just as nobody would drink a cup of glow-in-the-dark tea meant for the likes of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

And why would Prigozhin have been in Moscow in the first place?

Maybe Putin, an old KGB spy, lured him to the capital with some kind of promise of safety. But why would anybody believe him?

It doesn’t matter now, especially not to Prigozhin (if he was on the plane, which he probably was). It also doesn’t matter whether the plane was shot down, which some initial reports indicated, or just magically exploded.

The former would certainly be bold because it would indicate that Putin has stopped pretending that his opponents suffer accidents… unless, of course, the narrative is that somebody accidentally shot down a private jet.

It is also possible that the president, whose grip in Russia seemed to be weaker than thought during the brief Wagner uprising, decided something a bit more showy was needed to deter his opponents.

And what is flashier than downing a plane and having the crash caught on tape?

In any case, why bother pretending? Everybody knows Putin is a killer. For most people, that’s a problem. But not for everybody.

After all, who could forget Trump’s first Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, then with Fox News, in 2017?

When the broadcaster called Putin a “killer,” the then-president responded: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

Maybe this “tragic accident” will come up during tonight’s Republican debate. It would certainly be interesting to see how Trump’s rivals feel about it… and spice up an event that otherwise promises to be fairly dull.

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