Revenge is a dish best served flaming hot with lots of collateral damage

It was a strange detour in the war in Ukraine — the Wagner group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, abruptly left the field and started marching towards Moscow. Then Prigozhin equally abruptly gave up and retired to Belarus. I certainly had no idea what was going on, or what politicking was behind the maneuvers. It was clear that Prigozhin had made Putin sweat, briefly, and given Putin’s reputation for dealing brutally with betrayal, it was surprising that his opponent was walking away without a dose of poison or falling out a window.

Well, the price of crossing Putin has been paid. Prigozhin apparently has died, along with the crew and other passengers, in a catastrophic airplane crash.

In one video geolocated by NBC News near the village of Kuzhenkino in Tver Oblast, Russia, what looks like a plane can be seen spiraling down through clouds, trailing smoke behind it. The video, filmed from the ground and posted on social media, shows the apparent jet hurtling toward the ground before crashing and erupting into flames, sending a dark plume of smoke spiraling into the sky.

Another video filmed from a car near the same area shows an eyewitness driving beside a field in which the fiery wreckage of a plane can be seen. Another, graphic and close-up, shows someone inspecting the flaming wreckage in a field and swearing as they come across what appears to be two bodies.

You are clearly paranoid if you think Putin could have anything to do with such a ruthless, violent ‘accident.’


  1. says

    I have a hunch that the odds of the other 9 people aboard this private jet (including the flight crew) all being undeserving of this fate are slim to none.

  2. raven says

    This is about the most predicted accident, lately in Russia
    The betting was Prigozhin wasn’t going to live much longer.
    It’s Russia, after all.
    People have done far less than Prigozhin and ended up falling out of windows.

    There were 9 other people on the plane, who I guess are just collateral damage.
    Putin must have badly wanted Prigozhin dead to kill 9 other people just to get him.
    Or, the Russians just didn’t care about killing a few more innocent people.

    Yevgeny Prigozhin demonstrated a major lack of judgement here.
    Everyone knows that human life is cheap in Russia and you can die any time for a lot of reasons.
    As a member of the power structure and a mercenary leader, whose business is mass death, he had to know it as well as anyone.

  3. microraptor says

    The real question is did they get the real Prigozhin here: the man was known to employ at least two body doubles.

  4. ardipithecus says

    There was another high ranking Wagner officer on board, and the guy who founded the group, so the grand total of innocence on board was likely negligible.

    In one report I saw, Russia isn’t denying shooting it down, claiming they mistook it for a Ukrainian drone, which is slightly plausible given that Ukrainian drones were active at the time.(the ones being launched from within Russia).

  5. numerobis says

    Russia is putting out a bunch of conflicting claims to muddy the waters.

    It’s extremely unlikely they accidentally used a high-end SAM system capable of hitting a high altitude target at a business jet with its transponder on, thinking it actually was a low-flying Ukrainian drone with a lawnmower motor.

  6. numerobis says

    raven@2: the other Wagner high-ups weren’t collateral damage. Utkin was the military leader; the other passengers were also notables.

    The flight crew weren’t personally targeted but they were part of this military organization that the Russian ministry of defense want to destroy.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    Who is Dmitry Utkin and who else was reportedly on the plane?

    The history of the Wagner Group is murky but follow the trail back far enough and Dmitry Utkin’s name will inevitably crop up.

    The 53-year-old veteran of Russia’s two wars in Chechnya in 1994-2000 is believed to have been involved in the private army since its early days in 2014.

    The group itself is named after his call sign Wagner. It is seemingly a reference to composer Richard Wagner, who was Adolf Hitler’s favourite composer.

    In recent years, Utkin is reported to have been Prigozhin’s right-hand man, responsible for overall command and combat training.

    There are few photographs Utkin but one of those in circulation is a selfie which reveals neo-Nazi tattoos on his body…

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    @6: The likelihood of an accidental shootdown seems very low when you consider the plane took from Moscow; i.e. it was not approaching the area from outside.

  9. KG says

    The BBC interviewed a former spokesliar for Putin this morning, who claimed Ukraine was responsible. I’ve also seen a claim online that it was the CIA, punishing Prigozhin for failing to go through with his march on Moscow after paying him $1bn. Nothing at all from the Kremlin itself, last I heard. I’m agog for the first claim it was aliens.

  10. billseymour says

    KG @10:

    I’ve also seen a claim online that it was the CIA, punishing Prigozhin for failing to go through with his march on Moscow after paying him $1bn.

    LOL.  Yeah, it’s gotta be the Deep State, which is why we should elect Trump…or something.

  11. wzrd1 says

    @KG, that was actually my first joke. “I’m not saying that it was the space aliens, but…”. ;)
    Of course, with the massive influx of intelligent weapons systems, it could actually be an accident involving a smart missile, being an extreme fan of Prigozhin, simply rushed toward him to embrace him, forgetting that it lacked arms with which to embrace him.
    A case of mistaken identity for a drone is possible, after all, what nation tracks air traffic, especially in time of war, around their national capitol? That’s unheard of, as such remote locations get no air traffic to speak of. I mean otherwise, when Wagner was advancing toward Moscow, had air traffic been closely tracked, Putin would’ve hopped onto the executive aircraft and took off from Moscow…
    Oh wait…

  12. robro says

    There’s a Wikipedia article here. It catalogs the people on board:

    Seven of the ten people on the list were passengers, including Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, one of the group’s military operations leader Dmitry Utkin, the group’s leader of security and foreign logistics, two veterans, and two of Prigozhin’s bodyguards. The crew consisted of a pilot, a co-pilot, and a flight attendant.

    There’s also this note at the end:

    The National Resistance Center of Ukraine reported that convoys of Wagner personnel and vehicles were seen leaving their bases in Belarus and heading towards the Russian border, with the Belarusian Special Operations Forces attempting to intercept them. A Wagner camp near Asipovichy was later reported to be in the process of dismantlement.

  13. says

    There are at least six other ways the aircraft could (and likely was) brought down other than a SAM launch to that altitude. The flight path as described in the media thus far doesn’t rule out a SAM strike, but neither does it rule out certain other catastrophic onboard events. Investigators will probably discover that one of the knives for the in-flight meal had been replaced with an icepick some time early next week.

  14. robro says

    Putin has offered his condolences saying (per WaPo) that Prigozhin “was a talented person” who “made some serious mistakes.” Emphasis on past tense.

    I would agree with Putin that Prigozhin made some serious mistakes…I’m not sure about his talents. I’m fairly sure Putin has also made some serious mistakes. Somewhere, someone in that bunch gangsters is saying, “It’s Putin or me, baby, and it ain’t gonna be me!” (famous last words)

    Here’s a thought: As Prigozhin at least claimed that he wasn’t going after Putin but the inept Russian military brass, perhaps they were behind the deed even without Putin’s approval.

    Also, why were the senior leaders of Wagner Group in Moscow and flying to St. Petersburg? Weren’t they banished to Belorussia?

    NYT is reporting that American and other Western officials say there was an explosion on board the jet. “The explosion could have been caused by a bomb or other device planted on the aircraft, though other theories, like adulterated fuel, are also being explored, the officials said.”

    Further Putin quote from the NYT: “These are people who made a substantial contribution to our joint efforts of fighting the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine. We remember this, know this, and won’t forget it.” Oddly one of the dead was famous for his Nazi tattoos.

  15. raven says

    Somewhere, someone in that bunch gangsters is saying, “It’s Putin or me, baby, and it ain’t gonna be me!” (famous last words)

    Prigozhin: I came here to drink vodka and fight. And I’m all out of vodka.
    Putin: Go ahead. Underestimate me. That will be fun.

    It looks like the average mental age of the Russian leadership is around 12.

  16. wajim says

    Well, apparently some people know more than I do, which is nothing, null, zero. You do know, of course, I had the late DP’s ear, and his checkbook, right? Robert can confirm, not

  17. notaandomposter says

    re Jaws:
    video shows a wing blown off (inconsistent with an onboard icepick attack or suicide squad , some (trustworthy?) journalists have pointed out that photos show the wreckage perforated in a manner consistent with munitions used in SAMs and inconsistent with an ‘internal’ explosion (SAM’s warheads eject thousands of metal projectiles – making what they hit into swiss cheese) the tell-tale holes are not typical of a mechanical failure induced explosion (like a fuel tank exploding) – so either an on-board bomb was placed (a suitcase full of c4 and ball bearings) or a private jet with a registered passenger list and flight plan (and a transponder) was taken out by a s300 (or similar system)—-Ukrainian special operations or a dissident Russian group maybe could achieve the former- but would be a difficult mission, the Russian military using a SAM? – would be ‘shooting fish in a barrel- the plane had a TRANSPONDER

  18. numerobis says

    notaandomposter: one claim I’ve seen is that they turned the transponder off. Which is almost certainly BS. Yes the transponder stopped sending … exactly when the plane disintegrated, which tends to be associated with transponder failure. If they turned the transponder off, it was within a couple minutes of being shot down; seems unlikely.

  19. robro says

    wajim @ #17 & #18 — I know nothing either, just passing on what I’m seeing in a news thread while trying to do some work which I know nothing about either. I find it somewhat amusing to see what “American intelligence” (oxymoron alert) is telling the media to say. I don’t even know who “late DP” is, nor that you had his “ear” tho I would guess that upset the DP.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    Akira @20: The idea is much older than The Wire. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “when you strike at a king, you must kill him”. There are less pithy versions going back centuries. But IMO the version given by Verbal in The Usual Suspects is more chilling: “How do you shoot the Devil in the back? What if you miss?”.

  21. flange says

    Sounds like the plane crash “accident” that killed Paul Wellstone and family in 2002.

  22. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    #24: It was either Prigozhin’s jet, or a jet owned by Wagner, it wasn’t hired from some outside company for this flight. Really hard to see how the private pilot and crew for a war criminal are innocent victims.
    #25: Oooh, a nonsense conspiracy that has no similarities to current events, great! That’s exactly what we need. /s

    If conspiracies are called for, then a plane crash seems like a great way to fake your death and get away from a dictator that wants you dead.

  23. Reginald Selkirk says

    Wagner fighters are furious and vowing vengeance after their leader Prigozhin’s presumed death in a plane crash

    Wagner forces were raging against “traitors to Russia” and plotting revenge after the apparent death of their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in a plane crash on Wednesday…

    “[Prigozhin’s] former Wagner subordinates and their supporters,” it said, “are cursing” Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and “threatening to take revenge” on them…

  24. Steve Morrison says

    I assume the icepick remark was a reference to the way Trotsky was assassinated.

  25. robro says

    A Washington Post item:

    There is no indication thus far that the jet was downed by a missile, according to three U.S. officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a preliminary assessment. An explosion was detected along the path of the plane, but there are no signs of a missile launch, two officials said.

    First assertion I’ve see that there’s no evidence of a missile. Of course, it could have been aliens. Their ET weapons systems are superior to anything human and virtually undetectable.

  26. numerobis says

    fergl: I feel a little bit bad for the crew but they were crew for the leadership of a military unit. That’s not exactly innocent bystanders.

  27. says

    Westbrook: Given that the plane was owned by Prigozhin, it’s safe to guess that everyone else on it were associates of his, with the possible exception of the flight crew. So I wouldn’t really call them “collateral damage.” Also, the plane went down in a field, not on any buildings. so no collateral damage on the ground either.

  28. says

    Has anyone pointed out that in a horror movie the monster always has one final scene – especially when the body has not been recovered?

  29. robro says

    Helge @ #33 — In horror movies these days, there’s always the cliffhanger end to tease the sequel.

  30. says

    @28, @19: Yes, the “icepick” was a reference to Trotsky. And the substitution of the icepick in Prigozhin’s table service is parallel to the horse’s head in the bed in The Godfather… which, in turn, was probably copied from the Cheka’s ways of warning bureaucrats-too-essential-to-eliminate to color a little more inside the lines.

    Let’s just say that aircraft, despite being built of metal, are more fragile than they appear — especially at altitude.

  31. robro says

    The Guardian has a story titled “Is Yevgeny Prigozhin really dead? Not everyone is convinced”. It’s mostly about how common the suspicion is that he wasn’t on that plane, and other conspiracy theories about what happened. However, part of the hesitation to declare him dead held by some people is because he was declared dead in another plane crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019. He reappeared three days later…Wow! Just like Jesus Christ. I may be impressed with his theatrical flare if he pulls that off again.

  32. John Morales says


    birgerjohansson, Louis Armstrong died in 1971. So, no. No comment about Putin.

    (Also, that song is from 1928)

  33. rietpluim says

    You know what they say: In Russia nothing is true until the Pravda denies it.
    I wonder if Prigozhin really was on that plane.

  34. birgerjohansson says

    John Morales @ 40
    Yes, I meant “Zombie Louis Armstrong”
    (What? You have no zombies over there? We have entire zombie ideologies, just look at Le Pen and our local SD party)

    When Putin invented the word verticality a decade ago everybody believed he ment “to be vertically integrated with the boss of bosses”.

    What he really meant was “People I don’t like will move vertically very fast, from windows and from aircraft”.

  35. numerobis says

    rietpluim: the kremlin has indeed denied the claim that it killed Prigozhin, so that bar is cleared.

  36. robro says

    John Morales @ #46 — But you have to admit there are parallels between the character “Mackie Messer” and Putin, among others.

    Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne,
    Und die trägt er im Gesicht.
    Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer,
    Doch das Messer sieht man nicht.

    And the shark, it has teeth,
    And it wears them in the face.
    And Macheath, he has a knife,
    But the knife can’t be seen.

  37. Kagehi says

    All I know is that given the prior actions and movement of Wagner them all suddenly moving towards Russia again “should” lead Putin to either a) be going, “Oh hell, I just screwed up…”, b) “Who the hell did this without my authorization?”, or c) “Who the hell did this, find me proof so I can get these people to stop again!”, depending on whether or not it was really an accident. But, if Putin was so buddy buddy with Trump on state visits due to similarity of personality.. that might become, a) “Who can I blame, other than me, for screwing this up?”, b) “Who can I blame for it, even if they didn’t do it, while I try to figure out who actually did?”, and possibly still c, if it wasn’t someone he had any level of control over.

    In any case.. unless some sort of deal has been struck, and this movement back towards Russia is non-threatening…

  38. KG says

    It’ll be amusing to see the Tankie line(s) on this – my guess is that they’ll be all over the place, with some praising Putin for his resolute action, some blaming the CIA, some thinking it’s a 5-dimensional chess move and Prigozhin will be capturing Kyiv for Putin any day now…

  39. robro says

    The Guardian has this lede today: “Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, said on Friday that he warned the Wagner group chiefs Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin to watch out for possible threats to their lives, and he insisted that Wagner fighters would remain in Belarus.” Ya’ think? Prigozhin and Utkin needed a warning about threats?

  40. robro says

    And oh boy! The Guardian also reports that there’s a second plane linked to Wagner Group that was in the air at the same time. The operator of the second plane denies the plane had any connection to Wagner Group. The Joe Rogan club will have weeks of hashing over all of this.

  41. StevoR says

    Aussie ABC news :

    Russian investigators say they have recovered flight recorders and 10 bodies from the scene of a plane crash thought to have killed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin two days ago. “In the course of initial investigative work, the bodies of 10 victims were found at the site of the plane crash,” Russia’s investigative committee said on social media.

    “Molecular genetic analyses are being carried out to establish their identities,” it said, adding that “flight recorders” were also recovered from the scene.</\Blockquote>

    Source :

  42. numerobis says

    Russian civil aviation investigators are serious people. The voice and data recorders will record what we all already know: out of nowhere, the plane blew up then fell straight out of the sky. Whether the pilots were alive to say anything is unclear.

    The analysis of the wreckage, on the other hand, will find whatever the authorities want to find.

  43. says

    If putin were truly clever, he’d have had one of Prigozhin’s body doubles on the plane so he could claim his revenge was complete, while Prigozhin could live in exile somewhere. Win/Win?! It would be possible, even if unlikely.

  44. John Morales says

    shermanj, Vlad Vexler a couple of days ago:

    (He speaks rather slowly; I routinely watch his videos at 1.35x)

  45. StevoR says

    @53. shermanj :

    If putin were truly clever, he’d have had one of Prigozhin’s body doubles on the plane so he could claim his revenge was complete, while Prigozhin could live in exile somewhere. Win/Win?!

    Not so much for the body double on the plane..

    @51.John Morales : Well, no one says you have to believe what they say. Just a news story saying what they are saying obvs.

  46. says

    @56 StevoR said: Not so much for the body double on the plane..
    I reply: You are right about that. I suggested Putin would do that. He is a monster. I didn’t mean to imply that I would condone that. I personally feel the rampant Putin Parade of bodies out of 3rd floor windows is barbaric. There are so many violent barbarians running around everywhere.