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Vladimir Putin’s credibility has been dealt a hammer blow after a survey showed that less than a third of the population believed the official explanation his officials offered for the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The Wagner Group chief and several other leading members of the mercenary group were killed in a plane crash on August 23 in the Tver Oblast north of Moscow.
A report from Russia’s Investigative Committee claimed fragments of grenades had been recovered from the bodies of the victims.
Putin last month backed a theory claiming the Wagner chief and his men accidentally blew up the plane themselves while drinking and taking drugs on board.
However, the theory has been thoroughly rejected by Russians in a new poll that cast doubts on Putin’s hold over members of the public.
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The survey, conducted by Russian Field on behalf of state news outlet RTVI between October 21 and 29, found only 27 percent of respondents agreed with the official explanation for the crash.
Anther 38 percent openly disagreed with Putin’s claims while the remaining 33 percent said they did not know.
A further question on the cause of the crash found 13 percent believed it was an ordered killing, 12 percent said it was a terrorist attack while seven percent suggested the plane had been shot down
International intel suggester Prigozhin was the victim of assassination for leading an attempted coup against Putin two months before his death.
The mercenary chief also repeatedly challenged Putin’s military chief, criticising their strategy in Ukraine and demanding the full mobilisation of the male population.
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US intelligence analysis on the crash site and the remains of the aircraft suggested the plane had been brought down by an intentional explosion.
The survey exposed a further issue for Putin amid reports of soldiers refusing to follow orders in Ukraine and of his dwindling health.
The White House last week said Russia is executing soldiers who have failed to follow orders and threatening entire units with death if they retreat from Ukrainian artillery fire.
It’s a development that US national security officials believe reflects Russia’s morale problems 20 months into its grinding invasion of Ukraine, said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
Members of the Wagner Group were reported to have had a practice of executing those who fled.
The mercenaries were pulled out of Ukraine after Prigozhin mounted his armed rebellion in June.
There also have been reports, including from the British Defence Ministry, that the regular Russian military has deployed “barrier troops” that threaten to shoot any deserters.
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