Kyiv – A recent incident has escalated tensions between Ukraine and Russia, as sources within Kyiv’s security service revealed that a drone strike conducted overnight targeted five of Moscow’s fighter jets on Russian soil. The development comes against the backdrop of an already strained relationship between the two neighboring nations.
Russia’s defense ministry has responded, asserting that they successfully intercepted and downed two drones in the Bryansk and Kursk regions, both of which share borders with Ukraine. However, the ministry refrained from providing any details about potential damages or casualties resulting from the incident.
Credible Ukrainian news outlets, including the Kyiv Post and Ukrainska Pravda, have cited sources within Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) as confirming a series of strikes on Russian fighter jets. The sources claim that four Su-30 fighter jets and one MiG-29 were targeted in the attack, which reportedly occurred at an airfield located in the Kursk region.
This alleged drone strike marks a concerning escalation in the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, fueling speculation about potential repercussions and further deterioration of diplomatic relations.
This came as Russian Investigative Committee, responsible for probing severe criminal cases within the nation, officially declared that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the prominent figure at the helm of the notorious Wagner mercenary group, was among the casualties of a recent plane crash.
The incident has sent shockwaves through national and international circles, as Prigozhin’s alleged involvement in various controversial operations had positioned him at the center of multiple controversies.
According to a statement released on Sunday, the committee revealed that meticulous forensic testing had been conducted, leading to the positive identification of all ten bodies recovered from the crash site. The identities of these individuals were found to be in alignment with the official passenger manifest of the ill-fated aircraft.
The recent announcement concerning the fate of Yevgeny Prigozhin has triggered days of intense conjecture. Prigozhin, a figure notorious for his use of body doubles, multiple passports, and intricate disguises during travel, has raised numerous questions about his true condition. Notably, his reported death has been erroneously circulated twice before, including after a plane crash incident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019.
On Friday, the UK Ministry of Defence disclosed in a regular intelligence update that despite Prigozhin’s well-documented “exceptional security measures,” there was a “highly likely” probability that the 62-year-old was counted among the deceased.
In contrast, Russia’s official statement released on Sunday remained conspicuously silent regarding the potential reasons behind the crash. This incident follows a mere two months after Prigozhin’s involvement in a brief and ill-fated mutiny led by Wagner troops, during which they commandeered a defense headquarters in Rostov and advanced towards Moscow.
Preliminary findings from Russia’s civil aviation authority had earlier indicated that Yevgeny Prigozhin, along with several high-ranking members of his inner circle, were listed as passengers aboard the ill-fated flight that tragically crashed on a Wednesday. The circumstances surrounding the crash remain under investigation, with authorities working diligently to ascertain the factors that led to this catastrophic incident.
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s notoriety extends beyond his purported leadership of the Wagner group, as he has been linked to various politically sensitive undertakings both within Russia and on the global stage. His demise marks a significant moment in the country’s complex web of security, diplomacy, and intrigue.
As investigations into the crash continue, the ramifications of Prigozhin’s death are expected to reverberate throughout Russia’s security landscape, prompting questions about the future trajectory of the Wagner group and potential power vacuums within its ranks.
Speculations from Western politicians and analysts suggest that Mr. Putin may have commanded the elimination of Prigozhin as a reprisal for the Wagner group’s short-lived mutiny in June.
Concurrently, a rediscovered video clip featuring Prigozhin discussing a “plane disintegrating mid-flight” has resurfaced across various social media platforms.
Ongoing investigations into the plane crash that resulted in the aircraft plummeting into a field approximately 185 miles (300km) north of Moscow have prompted officials from the United States and Western nations to conclude that the crash was likely the outcome of a deliberate explosion.
Swiftly, suspicions have converged on Vladimir Putin, with officials from the US and Western governments strongly suggesting that he might have played a pivotal role in orchestrating the incident. The circumstances surrounding the crash, which appear to point towards an intentional act, have fueled the growing speculation of Putin’s involvement.
This turn of events has gained momentum due to the backdrop of recent events. Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed uprising, a significant challenge to Putin’s 23-year grip on power, has raised eyebrows and drawn significant attention. The seriousness of Prigozhin’s insurrection is underscored by the resonance it found among US and Western officials, who now see the plane crash as a possible response from Putin to quell the brewing dissent and maintain his firm hold on leadership.
The US president, Joe Biden, told reporters after the crash: “I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised. There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind.”
The Kremlin has vehemently refuted accusations of its involvement in the assassination of Yevgeny Prigozhin, categorizing assessments from Western intelligence sources linking Putin to the incident as “a complete falsehood.”
Despite the seriousness of the allegations, the response from Ukrainian quarters has been marked by a relative lack of fervor, bordering on indifference. Prigozhin’s stature had waned significantly in the eyes of Ukraine’s observers following the failed mutiny. The once-significant Wagner Group, a prominent unit operating within Ukraine, had effectively withdrawn from the country approximately three months ago, a strategic move that coincided with the capture of Bakhmut.
Subsequently, Putin has taken swift action to leverage Prigozhin’s demise, issuing a decree that mandates all private military company personnel, including those of the Wagner Group, to pledge their loyalty to Russia through an oath of allegiance.
During a televised interview on Thursday, Putin seemed to offer a eulogy for Prigozhin, reflecting on their relationship that dates back to the early 1990s. He characterized Prigozhin, a former hotdog vendor hailing from Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg, as an individual who had “made some serious mistakes in life” but praised him as a “talented man, a talented businessman”.
Putin said the passengers on the plane had “made a significant contribution” to the fighting in Ukraine. “We remember this; we know, and we will not forget,” he added.