Kremlin Says Theory It Killed Wagner Leader Is ‘A Complete Lie’

(Photo by MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jake Smith Contributor
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The Kremlin has denied claims that it was involved in the presumed death of mutinous mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, The Associated Press reported on Friday.

Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group, reportedly died in a plane crash near Moscow along with nine other passengers on Wednesday, raising questions from the intelligence community as to whether Russia played a role in the disaster. The Kremlin responded by calling allegations of involvement “a complete lie,” and said it would thoroughly investigate Prigozhin’s assumed death, according to the AP. (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Putin Said ‘Betrayal’ Is ‘Impossible To Forgive’ In 2018 Documentary)

“Right now, of course, there are lots of speculations around this plane crash and the tragic deaths of the passengers of the plane, including Yevgeny Prigozhin,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said during a conference call with reporters on Friday, according to the AP. “Of course, in the West those speculations are put out under a certain angle, and all of it is a complete lie.”

The Pentagon said on Thursday it was probable that Prigozhin was aboard the plane when it crashed near Moscow, but noted there was “no information” to support previous theories that the plane was shot down by ground-to-air missiles. Other U.S. intelligence assessments allege that the crash was caused by an intentional explosion, with one U.S. official claiming that Prigozhin was “very likely” targeted, according to the AP.

The Kremlin said it was still in the process of confirming Prigozhin’s death, the AP reported.

“[Putin] said that right now all the necessary forensic analyses, including genetic testing, will be carried out,” Peskov said. “Once some kind of official conclusions are ready to be released, they will be released.”

Putin appeared to “eulogize” the death of Prigozhin in a statement on Thursday, noting that the mercenary leader was a “talented person” but had also “made serious mistakes.” The Kremlin said Friday that the future of Prigozhin’s mercenary army, the Wagner Group, was uncertain, the AP reported.

“When it comes to the future [of Wagner], I can’t tell you anything — I don’t know,” Peskov said.

Hours after the crash on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said he was “not surprised” that Prigozhin had been killed.

“I don’t know for a fact what happened but I’m not surprised,” Biden said. “There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind. But I don’t know enough to know the answer. I’ve been working out for the last hour and a half.”

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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