Nobody seems surprised Wagner's Prigozhin died under suspicious circumstances

The evident death of Yevgeny Prigozhin in a fiery plane crash Wednesday, exactly two months after his Wagner mercenary army captured a Russian military garrison and marched on Moscow, did not come as a surprise to Russia experts or even casual observers of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"You may recall, when I was asked about this by you, I said 'I'd be careful what I rode in,'" President Biden said Wednesday, referring to comments he made about Prigozhin after Wagner's brief mutiny. "I don't know for a fact what happened but I'm not surprised."

U.S. intelligence agencies are working to confirm how — or whether — Prigozhin died, but they don't think it's a coincidence he was presumptively, publicly assassinated in a plane crash on the same day Gen. Sergei Surovikin, a Wagner ally, was publicly removed as head of Russia's air force, CNN reported.

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Putin's critics have a deadly habit of falling out of windows or ingesting poison. There's "no doubt" Putin is behind the crash, Kremlin critic Bill Browder told CNN. "Putin is a man who never forgives and never forgets," and Prigozhin "made him look weak."

"No matter what caused the plane crash, everyone will see it as an act of vengeance and retribution" by the Kremlin, and "the Kremlin wouldn't really stand in the way of that," Russia expert Tatiana Stanovaya noted on Telegram. A living, "happy, full-of-strength and full-of-ideas Prigozhin was, definitely, a walking source of threats for the authorities, the embodiment of Putin's political humiliation."

The "demonstrative elimination of Prigozhin" shows that Putin "does not forgive anyone for his own bestial terror," Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak agreed. Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine's presidential office, simply posted a link to the song "Highway to Hell," The New York Times reported.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.