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A Very Public Execution in Russia

A plane carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mercenary chief who led a short-lived mutiny two months ago, crashed today in a sparsely populated area northwest of Moscow. According to Russian media, Prigozhin and at least one of his top commanders are dead. As is always the case with breaking news, there is much we don’t know, but the sight of Prigozhin’s jet falling out of the sky suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin has conducted a public execution of a man who was once a trusted friend but later provided the greatest challenge that the Russian dictator has ever faced.

Here’s what we do know. The aircraft was one of Prigozhin’s personal business jets. The plane, a widely used Embraer Legacy 600, took off from Moscow and likely was headed toward St. Petersburg, Prigozhin’s base of operations. It was flying at 28,000 feet before it plunged to earth, according to flight-tracking data. A second jet, also believed to belong to Prigozhin, then turned around and landed safely in Moscow, but Russia’s aviation ministry has confirmed that Prigozhin and the Wagner co-founder Dmitry Utkin were listed as passengers on the crashed jet.

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