Vladimir Putin has finally broken his silence over the plane crash which is presumed to have killed Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and nine others. (The news broke around 24 hours ago.)
Although Putin paid tribute to the warlord in a televised address, you’ll notice in the transcript that we provided below that the Russian president was very precise with his choice of words. He stopped short of directly confirming Prigozhin’s death.
Putin stated there had been fatalities, saying he “would like to above all express words of the most sincere condolences to the families of all those who have died”. But he seemed to suggest it was not totally clear whether Wagner members were amongst the dead, saying only that “initial information suggests” they were on the plane.
And although he saluted to Prigozhin as a “talented businessman” with a “complicated fate”, at no point did Putin state in black and white that the Wagner founder was amongst the dead. However, he did use the past tense when speaking about the 62-year-old.
While the plane that crashed was linked to Prigozhin – and information released by Russian authorities states that he and his right-hand man Dmitry Utkin were amongst seven Wagner associates killed – the BBC has been unable to verify these claims.
What exactly was said
“As for the aviation tragedy, first of all I want to express my most sincere condolences to the families of all the victims.
“It is always a tragedy.
“Indeed, if employees of the Wagner company were there, and the preliminary data indicate they were, I would like to note that these people made a significant contribution to our common cause of combating the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine, we remember this, we know it and we shall not forget.
“I had known Prigozhin for a very long time, since the start of the ’90s.
“He was a man with a difficult fate, and he made serious mistakes in life. And he strove for the results he needed for himself, and when I asked him about it, for the common cause, as in these last months.
“He was a talented person, a talented businessman, he worked not only in our country, and worked with results, but also abroad, in Africa in particular.
“He was involved there with oil, gas, precious metals and stones.
“As far as I know, he just returned yesterday from Africa. He met some officials here.
“But what is quite definite – the head of the Investigative Committee reported to me this morning – is they have already begun a preliminary investigation into this event. And it will be carried out in full, and taken right to the end. There are no doubts about this.
“Let’s see what the investigators say in the near future. And now, expert examinations, technical examinations and genetic ones are being carried out. This takes some time.”