Russian state media pundits are doing their best to convince viewers that the explosion responsible for downing a private jet carrying Wagner Group founder Dmitry Utkin and its chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, was not the work of President Vladimir Putin. And by “doing their best,” we mean tossing up ridiculous conspiracies blaming NATO, Ukraine, and even the weather.
The Wagner Group is a state-funded military organization — labeled by the United States as a “transnational criminal organization” — comprised of mercenaries with previous training in Russia’s special forces. Prigozhin was a long-time pal of Putin who was often thought to do his dirty work at home and abroad. Putin’s attack on Ukraine strained the pair’s relationship which ended with Prigozhin attempting a coup, marching his troops on Moscow just two months ago, only to abort the whole thing at the last minute. According to CNN, the rebellion marked the biggest challenge to Putin’s rule in 23 years. Now, with news of Prigozhin’s death, the world is speculating that Putin organized the plane crash as revenge for his old friend’s uprising.
And Russia’s on-air TV personalities are in full-on panic mode trying to point the finger at literally anyone else.
The most famous of these, Vladimir Solovyov, has resorted to shouting insults at viewers who question the Russian president’s involvement in the “accident,” and concocting absurd theories about who might want the head of the Wagner Group dead. After claiming Prigozhin represented “no threat” to Putin, Solovyov reminded audiences of the deal the two struck when the Wagner warlord tried to invade Moscow saying, “I’m trying to figure out who might have benefited from it. The very last person it would benefit is Putin! Putin gave a word, he forgave all of them… Putin was never known not to keep his word! He is a man of his reputation… all about the laws.”
Solovyov then tried to shift focus to Ukraine, alleging the country was celebrating Prigozhin’s death on the internet and that he was “target number one” for their military. When an audience member challenged him by theorizing that Ukraine didn’t have the means to pull off such an intricate plan, Solovyov lost it, calling her a “fantastic fool,” other audience members “degenerates,” and ranting, “How hard is it to sneak a bomb on board? It is the simplest thing there is… I’m so sick of fools writing to me! I hate cretins! I just hate them!”
In the end, Solovyov blamed everyone from the United States to NATO to France for the explosion that took Prigozhin’s life but it was his fellow anchor who gave the most compelling theory. Despite video of the crash showing relatively clear skies on the day the plane went down, meteorologist Evgeny Tishkovets said he blames the weather for the tragedy.
(Via The Daily Beast)