A private jet traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg met a tragic fate as it crashed in the Tver region northwest of Moscow, according to reports from Russia’s aviation authority, Interfax.
The crash, which occurred late Wednesday, claimed the lives of all three pilots and seven passengers on board, as reported by the state-run Tass news service.
Among the passengers listed was Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group.
However, immediate confirmation of Prigozhin’s presence on the aircraft remains elusive. Sources close to the Kremlin couldn’t confirm his presence, citing Prigozhin’s known precautions, including the use of a second airplane.
The crash comes precisely two months after Prigozhin led a mutiny that posed a significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s nearly quarter-century rule.
Putin had denounced the June rebellion as “treason,” but Prigozhin managed to escape any retaliation by the Kremlin, thanks to a deal brokered to quell the revolt as his fighters came within 200 kilometers (124 miles) of Moscow.
Since then, Prigozhin had seemingly upstaged Putin by appearing in St. Petersburg last month, where he met with African officials while the president hosted a Russia-Africa summit.
Under the same agreement, Prigozhin’s Wagner fighters avoided punishment, and the mercenary group retained some of its extensive operations in Africa.
US President Joe Biden, when asked about the crash, commented, “I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised.”
U.S. officials had speculated that Putin might seek revenge for the unprecedented rebellion that shook his image as Russia’s unassailable leader, leaving the U.S., Europe, and China pondering the political ramifications.
“CIA Director William Burns, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum last month, remarked, ‘Putin is the ultimate apostle of payback,'” as tensions continue to mount.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had no immediate response to requests for comments on Wednesday.
Russian authorities are actively investigating the circumstances surrounding the jet crash, according to a statement from the press service of the Tver regional government. Unfortunately, no details regarding the identity of the casualties have been released.
The ill-fated jet, identified as an Embraer SA Legacy 600, followed what appeared to be a routine route to the northwest for approximately 12 minutes after takeoff, according to preliminary flight track data provided by Flightradar24.com.
Putin, who has been working to restore his shaken authority since the rebellion, now faces increasing nationalist anger over the prolonged invasion of Ukraine, which has stretched into its 18th month.
As he looks to secure a fifth term in the March 2024 elections, Putin’s efforts have intensified. This comes amid growing anxiety among senior officials and business tycoons, exacerbated by the recent plunge in the ruble to above 100 per dollar.
The central bank’s emergency rate hike is seen as a response to concerns that the currency’s weakness may fuel inflation and erode Russian incomes in the lead-up to the election.
Burkina Faso’s Military Junta Foils Attempted Coup Amid Ongoing Instability
Burkina Faso’s military junta announced its successful thwarting of an attempted coup this week, once again highlighting the nation’s precarious stability in the face of an ongoing Islamist insurgency.
The fragile transitional government, led by Colonel Ibrahim Traore, found itself targeted by a group of military officers and their cohorts seeking to plunge the country into chaos.
Government spokesman Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo released a statement late Wednesday, confirming the arrest of the individuals behind the plot, while asserting that those still at large were actively being pursued.
Traore, who took power a year ago after overthrowing Interim President Henri Paul Sandaogo Damiba, has been on edge due to the persistent specter of coups.
To address security concerns, Traore recently appointed new heads of the security services, including the National Intelligence Agency, following the arrest of several army officers accused of plotting against the state.
Ouedraogo reassured the public that a thorough investigation would be conducted to shed light on this latest attempted coup.
This incident in Burkina Faso underscores the troubling trend of military leaders seizing power in African nations, with Niger and Gabon experiencing similar developments in the past two years.
The West African nation remains at a critical juncture, teetering between democracy and instability as it grapples with internal and external threats.
French Ambassador Departs Niger Amid Escalating Tensions: Macron’s Pledge to Withdraw Troops Looms
Ambassador Sylvain Itte, along with six colleagues, left Niger’s capital, Niamey, on a flight bound for Paris via Chad.
This departure comes three days after French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed the withdrawal of the French envoy and pledged to withdraw approximately 1,500 French troops stationed in Niger by the end of 2023.
The abrupt exit of Ambassador Itte, as reported by Agence France-Presse, occurred at around 4 a.m. on Wednesday and followed the deterioration of relations between Niger’s military leaders and their former colonial power, France.
The strained relations were primarily triggered by the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup on July 26, a coup that led to the severance of military ties between the two nations.
Macron’s initial refusal to adhere to the August 28 deadline set by the junta for Ambassador Itte’s departure only served to heighten the diplomatic standoff.
The junta had cited alleged French “actions contrary to Niger’s interests” as the reason for the ambassador’s expulsion.
In the latest development, the coup leaders formally requested a timeline for the withdrawal of French troops from Niger. Macron had previously confirmed his commitment to completing the withdrawal by the end of 2023, further emphasizing the changing dynamics of the Franco-Nigerien relationship.
On Wednesday, President Macron engaged in talks with Nigerien Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou, during which he reaffirmed France’s support for President Bazoum and expressed his country’s eagerness to see a return to constitutional order in Niger.
This statement from the Elysee underscores France’s continued involvement in Niger’s internal affairs despite the recent diplomatic tensions.
As both nations navigate these turbulent waters, the future of their diplomatic and military relations remains uncertain.
The departure of Ambassador Itte is just the latest chapter in this evolving saga, and it raises questions about the implications for France’s historical ties to its former colony and its broader strategic interests in the West African region.
G-20 Grants African Union Equal Membership Status to EU
The Group of 20 nations has reached a consensus to confer permanent membership status upon the African Union.
This significant move is aimed at empowering the African continent with a stronger voice in addressing pressing global issues, including climate change and emerging-market debt.
The announcement was made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who served as the host of the G-20 summit held in New Delhi over a two-day period.
During this historic event, President Azali Assoumani of Comoros, who currently holds the presidency of the African Union, was warmly embraced by Prime Minister Modi and offered a seat at the summit table.
This strategic decision, which has been previously reported by Bloomberg News, grants the 55-member African Union the same prestigious status enjoyed by the European Union within the Group of 20.
European Council President Charles Michel expressed his delight regarding this development in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
He expressed eagerness for close cooperation between the African Union and the European Union within the framework of the G-20, solidifying the commitment to address global challenges collectively.
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