Wagner boss is likely dead and Putin faked meeting according to former US general
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A retired army general believes Vladimir Putin faked his meeting with the head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and that he's actually likely to be dead.
Retired Gen. Robert Abrams, who served as the commander of United States Forces-Korea, gave his opinion after the spokesperson for Putin claimed Prigozhin was among 35 senior Wagner commanders who met with the Russian president on 29 June.
Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed Prigozhin assured Putin that the group was loyal to the president, claiming they 'also said that they were ready to continue to fight for their homeland' - but Abrams isn't so sure.
When asked about the meeting, the retired general said: "Well, first, I'd be surprised if we actually see proof of life that Putin met with Prigozhin, and I think it's highly staged.
"And my personal assessment is that I doubt we'll see Prigozhin ever again publicly. I think he'll either be put in hiding or sent to prison or dealt with some other way, but I doubt we'll ever see him again."
Building on his theory that Prigozhin won't be seen in public again, Abrams said he 'personally [doesn't] think' the Wagner leader is alive.
"If he is, he's in a prison somewhere," he said.
The Wagner Group's insurrection plans came to an end when Prigozhin agreed to a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, agreeing to leave Russia for safe travel to exile in Belarus.
Earlier in July, Lukashenko told BBC News the Wagner chief and his mercenaries hadn't yet arrived in the country, and after the alleged meeting with Putin it's unclear whether they will at all.
The meeting also apparently took place after Russian state media began to target and discredit the Wagner leader.
On Sunday, prominent state TV host Vladimir Soloviev told viewers Prigozhin was a 'businessman with a criminal past'.
“He is not the Robin Hood he tried to portray himself as … many of his projects were murky and not always within the law,” Soloviev said on the Rossiya-1 channel.
As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, Abrams said Russian forces are likely feeling 'severely demoral[ized]' at the losses of their soldiers.
The UK's Ministry of Defense has estimated that Russia is losing an average of 400 soldiers a day.