A tantalising new video appears to show slain Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin commenting on his ‘elimination’ in the days before he was reportedly killed.
It comes amid a wave of conspiracy theories that the Wagner boss may have cheated death by putting a body double on his doomed business jet which crashed in Russia on 23 August.
Many in the West believe he was assassinated at the behest of Vladimir Putin in revenge for the coup he led in June against the dictator’s regime.
In the footage, Prigozhin, 62, is seen wearing military fatigues in a car, and says: ‘For those discussing whether or not I am alive.
‘How am I doing? It’s the weekend, the second half of August 23. I am in Africa,’ he says, speaking to camera. ‘So fans of discussing my elimination, intimate life, earnings or whatever, as a matter of fact, everything is fine.’
A tantalising new video appears to show slain Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin commenting on his ‘elimination’ in the days before he was reportedly killed
In the footage, Prigozhin, 62, is seen wearing military fatigues in a car, and says: ‘For those discussing whether or not I am alive
The video was posted by Grey Zone, a Telegram channel linked to Wagner.
It did so without comment but an earlier post by the channel showing his grave was captioned: ‘He once said that the dead speak louder than the living. He proved it!’
Grey Zone did not say when the footage was filmed.
Yet the video – if genuine – does not prove Prigozhin is alive.
He is known to have been in Africa – where Wagner has interests and military operations – before returning to Moscow ahead of the air crash last week.
Pro-war Military Informant channel suspects the video was recorded on the weekend of 19-20 August, when he was in Africa – days before Russia said he and nine others were killed when his business jet came down near Moscow.
‘In just a few days, Prigozhin will return to Russia, where he will die on August 23 in the explosion of his Embraer Legacy 600 business jet in the Tver region,’ said the channel. ‘A special chill runs from the literally prophetic words of the head of the Wagner PMC, who ironically mentions his possible liquidation.’
Such a timing fits with the claim in the video that he was alive in Africa in the second half of August 2023. He does not mention the air crash in the footage.
An eyewitness footage of the crash site of a plane, which Russian officials said Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was a passenger on, near Kuzhenkino, Russia, August 23
Prigozhin says, speaking to camera: ‘So fans of discussing my elimination, intimate life, earnings or whatever, as a matter of fact, everything is fine’
A woman puts flowers on the grave of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash, as people visit the grave to pay tribute in Saint Petersburg, Wednesday
Release of the clip came after it emerged on Wednesday that a woman mourner who came to pay her respects at the Prigozhin grave in St Petersburg was the wife of a man used by the warlord as his reported body double.
It was initially reported that the woman was his wife, but further footage appeared to suggest it was in fact Irina Krasavina, the spouse of Prigozhin’s main body double Leonid Krasavin, who actually attended the St Petersburg necropolis.
There is no wreath at the tomb from Prigozhin’s wife Lyubov, 52, yet there is one signed by ‘Mother’. Photos appeared to also show his eldest daughter at the scene.
A swirl of unconfirmed speculation suggested that Krasavin may have been on the plane rather than Prigozhin.
A Russian passport was earlier found showing Krasavin’s picture but in Prigozhin’s name, along with photos showing the Wagner warlord in a variety of costumes.
Prigozhin is known to have been paranoid about security and to have used body doubles and other methods to disguise his movements.
A view shows a portrait of Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin at a makeshift memorial in Moscow, Thursday last week
Many in the West believe Yevgeny Prigozhin (pictured) was assassinated at the behest of Vladimir Putin in revenge for the coup he led in June against the dictator’s regime.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin’s spokesman said ‘deliberate wrongdoing’ is among the causes of the plane crash that killed Prigozhin last week.
Speaking to reporters during his daily conference call, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that ‘different versions’ of what happened exist and ‘are being considered’ by Russian investigators.
‘Let’s put this way,’ Peskov said, one version includes ‘deliberate wrongdoing.’
The business jet carrying Prigozhin, the founder and leader of the private military force Wagner, and his top lieutenants crashed halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg a week ago, killing all seven passengers and three crew members.
The Interstate Aviation Committee, the Moscow-headquartered body that oversees civil aviation in most former Soviet republics, said in an online statement Wednesday that it was not currently investigating the crash, although the agency has an accident investigation division.
Peskov said there can’t be an international investigation into why the plane plummeted from the sky and he urged reporters to wait for the Russian Investigative Committee to complete its review.
The committee said last week that it opened a criminal case to look into possible flight safety violations, a standard procedure in Russia when there is no immediate reason to suspect foul play.
The crash occurred exactly two months after Prigozhin mounted a short-lived armed rebellion against Russia’s military leadership, posing the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority in his 23-year rule.
The Kremlin has denied involvement in the crash.
Western officials and analysts expect the private Wagner army to continue operating, particularly in the Sahel region of Africa, where Russian mercenaries have provided security against extremist organizations like al-Qaida and ISIS.
‘I am sure they’ll find a replacement’ for Prigozhin, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday after chairing talks among EU defense ministers.
‘Wagner will continue to operate in the service of Putin in Africa, doing what they do, which is not contributing to peace in the Sahel or the defense of the rights of Saharan Africans,’ Borrell said.
Yevgeny Prigozhin was a long time ally of Vladimir Putin, first owning a catering business before establishing his mercenary group
Vladimir Putin (left) is pictured in a visit to Yevgeny Prigozhin’s company in 2010 in St Petersburg
Yevgeny Prigozhin is pictured with Vladimir Putin in 2010, years before the Wager group is thought to have been established
Africa is vitally important to Russia – economically and politically.
This summer, Wagner helped secure a national referendum in the Central African Republic that cemented presidential power; it is a key partner for Mali’s army in battling armed rebels; and it contacted the military junta in Niger that wants its services following a coup.
Expanding ties and undercutting Western influence in Africa is a top priority as the Kremlin seeks new allies during its war in Ukraine, where Wagner fighters helped Russia win a long and bloody battle for the city of Bakhmut.
Africa’s 54 nations are the largest voting bloc at the U.N., and Moscow has actively worked to rally their support for its invasion.
Russian Telegram channel AST-54 reported: ‘Some say that the video is old, while others say that it is new and Prigozhin really survived and is in Africa.’
They say that ‘he does not have access to the internet around the clock and could not immediately respond to the situation with the crash of his personal plane’.
But the channel stressed: ‘He also did not address the plane crash, suggesting that the video was recorded before the crash.
‘There are no descriptions from those who posted the video.
‘The actual recording date is unknown.
‘It is assumed that the video could have been recorded a few days before the crash, around August 20th.
‘Then Prigozhin really was in Africa, and later flew to Russia, where the plane crash occurred.
‘Yet why is he discussing his death? There was no sign of this before the crash.’