An outspoken Russian politician and “tier-one propagandist” who was one of the biggest supporters of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has been seriously injured in an apparent car bomb attack, according to reports.
Zakhar Prilepin was reportedly badly hurt but “still conscious” after the explosion on a remote road in the Nizhny Novgorod region. However, Prilepin’s driver was declared dead at the scene.
According to an official statement from the Russian interior ministry, a suspect has already been detained.
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Footage from the scene tweeted by Russian news agency Nexta showed the mangled wreckage of Prilepin’s car lying upside-down next to a large crater.
Because of Prilepin’s close association with the invasion of Ukraine, suspicion has fallen on pro-Ukrainian forces working within Russia. According to the BBC, the pro-Ukraine Atesh partisan movement claimed responsibility for the attack
But Sergej Sumlenny, founder of the German European Resilience Initiative Centre think tank, says that it’s possible that Prilepin was the target of an assassination attempt from a Kremlin rival.
Speaking to Newsweek, he pointed out that Prilepin had recently spoken out in support of Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin – possibly putting him at odds with Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minster and Putin's war chief Valery Gerasimov.
This means he may have "turned into some sort of enemy or target for the enemies of Prigozhin," Sumlenny said, "It could be a message for Prigozhin.”
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However, this week’s attempted drone strike on the Kremlin, which the Russians have blamed on Ukraine, is the latest in a series of attacks on Russian territory – leading to rumours of a Ukrainian special forces squad working inside Russia.
Already this month, an oil refinery in Russia’s Krasnodar region, around 120 miles from the Crimean border, was targeted by drones, and Russia claimed to have brought down a weaponised Ukrainian drone 250 miles from the Ukraine border, injuring at least three people in an explosion as it crashed.
Whether these weapons are being used by Ukrainian forces or disaffected Russians, there is certainly a group inside Russia working against the Russian government.
And Prilepin could be a prime target: "Prilepin is definitely a tier-one propagandist," Sumlenny said. "He was one of the faces of the Russian invasion, for sure."
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