Prigozhin’s death heralds even more spectacular violence

Prigozhin’s death heralds even more spectacular violence

Anne Applebaum writes:

Vladimir Putin’s Russia has long been a land of mysterious deaths. In 1998, soon after he had been appointed head of the security services, Galina Starovoitova, a parliamentarian who believed in bringing democracy to Russia, was gunned down in the stairwell of her apartment building in St. Petersburg. In 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who had learned too much about the Chechen wars that Putin used to propel himself to power, met the same fate in the stairwell of her apartment building in Moscow. In 2015, Boris Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of Putin’s presidency, was killed by an assassin only steps away from the Kremlin. Other critics barely survived. In 2020, Alexei Navalny, organizer of the only truly national anti-Putin political movement, fell critically ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow after being poisoned.

All of these victims were Putin’s formal opponents, people who spoke or wrote in opposition to the kleptocracy he built. Since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a different class of victims—members of the Russian business elite who were perhaps insufficiently loyal or insufficiently keen on the war—have also begun to die in strange circumstances. In the year and a half that has passed since February 2022, two gas-industry executives were found dead with suicide notes. Three Russian executives were killed, alongside their wives and children, in what appeared to be murder-suicides. The body of the owner of a resort in Sochi was discovered at the bottom of a cliff. Another executive was found floating in a pool in St. Petersburg. Others have fallen out of windows or down staircases in Moscow, India, the French Riviera, and Washington, D.C.

Still, even on the very long list of people who have been shot, hanged, poisoned, or subjected to lethal accidents because they somehow got in Putin’s way, Yevgeny Prigozhin stands out. Prigozhin’s private plane mysteriously fell from the sky this afternoon, following an explosion that, whether a bomb or a rocket, could only have been organized by the state. The state, in turn, could only have acted on Putin’s orders, or at least in anticipation of such orders (Will no one rid me of this turbulent mercenary?). But Prigozhin wasn’t an opponent of Putin; he helped create Putin. He wasn’t a critic of Putin’s kleptocracy; he built the Wagner mercenary group, which supported African and Middle Eastern dictators and exploited diamond mines on behalf of Moscow too. He also ran the Internet Research Agency, the organization that used hacking, leaking, and social media to help elect Donald Trump. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.