The summer of 2023 was exceptionally dramatic in Russia.
After several months of build-up, the Wagner Group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, marched towards Moscow with a direct threat to confront President Putin and Russia's political elite over, in Prigozhin's view, their poor handling of the war in Ukraine.
It culminated with the Wagner soldiers dropping their forewarned plan, and subsequently, images surfaced of Prigozhin supposedly in Africa, where the Wagner Group is also active.
But in August, a stir went through the international community. A private plane crashed northwest of Moscow, and onboard was indeed Prigozhin, who reportedly lost his life in the crash.
Or did he?
No Proof of Death
In a startling interview with the Financial Times, the head of Ukraine's military intelligence service (GUR) acknowledges the existence of the Wagner Group and urges the international community not to jump to conclusions following the plane crash.
"I'm not saying he's not dead, nor that he is dead. I'm just saying there isn't a single piece of evidence to prove he's dead," says Burdanov.
And he might have a point, if you ask Jacob Kaarsbo, a senior analyst at Think Tank Europe.
Speaking to Danish TV 2, he points out that Russian authorities have not presented any evidence of Prigozhin's death, neither in the form of photos nor DNA evidence.
Another expert, Jakob Tolstrup, a Russia expert and lecturer at the Department of Political Science at Aarhus University, also tells TV 2 that the head of GRU may have an interest in casting doubt on Prigozhin's death, as it could impact Putin's image of having everything under control.
However, he believes it's most likely that the Wagner leader has indeed lost his life.
Who Was Behind It?
The big question surrounding the plane crash in August is who was actually behind the assassination, which was reportedly caused by a bomb exploding onboard the plane.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the bomb was placed on the plane on orders from the Russian regime in Moscow, but this has never been proven.