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Reactions to Wagner's Prigozhin believed killed in plane crash

Makeshift memorial outside the local office of the Wagner group in Novosibirsk

(Reuters) - Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on a private jet that crashed on Wednesday north of Moscow with no survivors, Russian authorities said.

Reuters could not immediately confirm that he was on the aircraft. Following are reactions from leaders and officials around the world:

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN

"I don't know for a fact what happened. But I'm not surprised... There is not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not behind, but I don’t know enough to know the answer."

MYKHAILO PODOLYAK, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER

"It is obvious that Putin does not forgive anyone for his own bestial terror ... The demonstrative elimination of Prigozhin and the Wagner command two months after the coup attempt is a signal from Putin to Russia's elites ahead of the 2024 elections. 'Beware! Disloyalty equals death'."

OLIVIER VERAN, FRENCH GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN

"We don't yet know the circumstance in which the crash took place, (but) we can have reasonable doubts".

"Prigozhin leaves a terrible mess behind him in many parts of the world (including) Africa and Ukraine. He (Prigozhin) was the man doing Putin's dirty work."

"His actions were inseparable from the policies of Putin, who entrusted him with the responsibility of carrying out these abuses at the head of the Wagner group."

ANNALENA BAERBOCK, GERMANY FOREIGN MINISTER

"We must fear that Russia, with or without Wagner, will continue with its cynical game not only in Ukraine but above all in Africa. And we must not forget that Prigozhin and Wagner are responsible for horrendous crimes against the Ukrainian people and in one country after the next in Africa."

KAJA KALLAS, ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER

"If true, it shows (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will eliminate opponents and that scares anyone who is thinking of expressing opinions different than his."

ZBIGNIEW RAU, POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER

"We would have great trouble naming anyone who would intuitively think this was a coincidence. It so happens that political opponents whom Vladimir Putin considers a threat to his power do not die naturally."

DANIEL HOFFMAN, FORMER SENIOR CIA OPERATIONS OFFICER AND STATION CHIEF IN MOSCOW

"I don’t have any doubt that it was on Putin’s orders." He said he believed that Prigozhin was not arrested after his failed mutiny “to give him a kind of false sense of security, freedom of movement, so they could snipe him.”

“This is about regime security for Vladimir Putin. You cannot allow a guy you called a traitor in late June, when he launched a mutiny, to live. That’s just not going to happen. And Prigozhin, whose formative experience was as a hotdog salesman, probably had an inflated opinion of his staying power.”

PAVEL LUZIN, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS SPECIALIST, CENTER FOR EUROPEAN POLICY ANALYSIS

“Despite any presumptions whether or not Prigozhin was killed by Putin according to his order or his plane was destroyed due to an inter-agency clash within the Russian elite, this event demonstrates that the Russian elite is not united, that the contradictions within the Kremlin are growing, that the coordination between different branches within the Russian leadership is really bad. In the end, if Vladimir Putin is so powerful, why didn’t he arrest Prigozhin?”

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Ingrid Melander and Bernadette Baum)