Take a close look at this image. You can see that the landing gear on the Embraer that is on the wings. Preliminary evidence points to some sort of explosive device being planted in one or both wheel wells. under the wings, which explains why the aircraft, as it plummeted towards earth, was intact but without wings.
I am confident that this was not a sanctioned assassination by Vladimir Putin. The timing and the spectacle (i.e., a plane crash on Russian territory) are unfavorable to Putin. The BRICs Summit was underway with Russia playing a prominent role. Putin also was commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at Kursk. Putin and his team know a thing or two about managing public relations. They are not fools. Killing Prigozhin in this way just does not make sense.
What about the GRU? Did they do it? I do not think so. Wagner is a creation of the GRU and Prigozhin was nothing more than a figurehead. If the GRU decided that Prigozhin was expendable I think they would get rid of him in a way that preserves plausible deniability. The wreckage of the aircraft on the ground in Russia will allow for the recovery of the black box and a chance to examine what remains of the aircraft. However, my friend, Stephen Bryen, makes an interesting argument (you can read the whole piece at Steve’s substack):
Stephen Bryen believes Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of Russia’s Wagner group mercenary army, died in the wreckage of one of his private planes on August 23. Some early news reports noted speculation Prighozin might not have been aboard.
Bryen also strongly suspects that the plane was shot down, not felled by a bomb smuggled on board or mechanical accident. But he is not sure Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the spectacular assassination of his ally-turned-challenger.
A former senior Pentagon official and defense industry executive, Bryen thinks Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, had the means and motive to act with or without Putin’s prior endorsement.
Steve wrote this before United States Air Force Europe reported that there is no evidence that Russian air defense was involved in shooting down the plane. Based on my experience that conclusion is based on evidence gathered from a broad array of intelligence.
I think it is highly unlikely that this crash was caused by a structural defect or improper maintenance. A bomb in one or more of the wing wheel wells seems most plausible. Which raises the next logical question — who could have done it?
My first candidate for culpability (and I repeat the point I made in my last post) are Russian Air Force officers, who lost friends when the Wagner forces shot down Russian aircraft on June 23, and decided to conduct a revenge attack without regard to the political repercussions. They wanted Prigozhin and his cronies to pay for the deaths of their friends. Mission Accomplished?
Alternatively, this could have been carried out by disgruntled members of Wagner who were disgusted by Prigozhin profiting off of their physical sacrifice. Wagner has a large contingent of ex-cons, but this does not mean they have no feelings of loyalty or love for fellow members of Wagner. I think another serious possibility is that a few Wagnerians who were fed up with Prigozhin’s public antics may have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Third up, a hit by oligarchs keen on creating problems for Putin. There are still some very wealthy Russians who chafe at Prigozhin being let off the hook for his June 24 mutiny and blame Putin for being too soft. Those oligarchs have the money and access to pull off the sabotage of the Prigozhin plane. The Beatles were wrong — money can buy you love and a lot of other things, including guys capable of planting a bomb on an aircraft.
At this point we are engaged in educated speculation. There is an investigation underway and I anticipate that this is not a smoke screen to cover up Russian Government misdeeds. I await the release of more information.