CNN’s Kimberly Dozier Explains the Putin-Prigozhin Relationship: ‘We’re Talking Mafia Territory’ (Video)

Russia’s aviation agency Rosaviatsiya announced Wednesday that mercenary Yevgeny Prigozhin had died in a plane crash outside Moscow, two months to the day he attempted to lead a mutiny against the Russian military. Vladimir Putin’s government has denied involvement in the crash, a move that CNN’s Kimberly Dozier said is straight out of “the Putin playbook.”

On Saturday, Dozier elaborated on the relationship between Prigozhin and Putin. Dozier said that, to understand what happened, “You have to look at the relationship, at least as far as any of us could tell, what it was between Prigozhin and Putin. And it seemed like very close friends … we’re talking sort of mafia territory.”

Nine other people were killed in the plane crash. Prigozhin’s fellow passengers included the “top leadership” of Wagner, the Russian state-funded private military company that Prigozhin founded in 2014. Notably, the only member of the top brass not on board was the executive director, who was not part of the attempted uprising against the Russian military.

As Dozier pointed out, the deaths are convenient for Putin and his allies. She said, “So, you’ve sliced off the ideological people who were a challenge towards Putin and Mother Russia and the war in Ukraine, and you’ve left intact the Wagner structure, which has been very useful to the Russian government.”

Dozier also explained that Prigozhin gained a lot of influence in Russia due to his relationship with Putin. She said, “Once he’d offended the man, he’d, in a sense, lost protection. We may never know who ordered this. Was it Putin himself, or was it someone in the upper ranks of power who wanted to make a move to take over Wagner, or who simply wanted to possibly curry favor with the boss?”

In May, Prigozhin’s forces were among the troops who gained control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Throughout the fight, he spoke out against both Russia’s army chief Valery Gerasimov and the minister of defense, Sergei Shoigu, and blamed the leaders for a supply shortage. The following month, Prigozhin led approximately 5,000 members of the military in a mutiny against the military’s leadership.

The mutiny was called off before the group reached Moscow as a deal was struck that reportedly would have allowed Prigozhin to defect to Belgium. The Wagner troops were also told they could leave Russia for Belgium.

The presumed death of Prigozhin means the Wagner Group is currently operating without a leader, and also calls into question whether or not the organization will continue to work in the Central African Republic, where the group controls natural resources.

That Prigozhin would have boarded a flight alongside so many members of Wagner’s leadership without worrying about foul play has been questioned by many, including CNN’s Amara Walker. When she questioned Dozier about what Prigozhin could have been thinking, the analyst began, “Prigozhin had to make a call.”

She continued, “When he looked into Putin’s eyes, when they had that meeting after their small insurrection and decided, apparently, that it was safe to continue in his orbit. And he could have altered his behavior. He could have stayed in Africa … he might not have understood that he needed to keep a low profile.”

Watch the entire interview with Kimberly Dozier in the video above.

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