One of the most striking images of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed mutiny was the sight of a plane shot down by his forces plummeting to Earth.
There was a grisly symmetry between that footage and the spectacle yesterday of the plane tumbling through the sky north of Moscow with him on board, or so we are told. That may well have been the intention.
When it came to the man they called Putin’s chef, revenge for the Russian president was indeed a dish best served cold, two months after the act that warranted it.
Whether he planned the details or left it to the siloviki, or securocrats, that Prigozhin had aimed his coup at, the message remains the same.
Treason does not pay. Putin has never tolerated traitors and there was no reason to believe in the end Prigozhin would be any exception.
He will hope the presumed assassination will draw a line under that embarrassing mutiny and deter any other threats and that it will bolster his power which has been weakened by the failed coup.
That possibility will be disconcerting to Ukrainians who had hoped firstly the mutiny would spell the end of Putin and then, when it failed, at least undermine him.
But there will still be a sense of satisfaction across Ukraine that Prigozhin is most likely dead.
He was the man who sent thousands of Russia’s most evil criminals over their borders, recruited with the promise of liberty, should they survive six months on the front. They were sent to bolster Putin’s devastating invasion, kill Ukrainians and destroy their cities.
When one of those convicts defected to the Ukrainians, they sent him back again as part of a prisoner swap.
Wagner punished him with Yevgeny Prigozhin‘s preferred form of execution. His head was placed on a cinder block and then crushed with a sledgehammer. The unspeakable act was recorded and proudly published by the Wagners on social media.
That is the kind of monstrous private army Prigozhin helped create and then used to send mercenaries raping, plundering and massacring across Africa before Putin called on them to help rescue his war in Ukraine.
They have been Putin’s most effective fighters in this conflict. The news their high command is most likely now all dead will be welcomed there. They scored one of Russia’s only successes – the seizure of Bakhmut.
But Wagner was useful to the Russian military when it was on the attack. Russia is now mainly focused on defence. Its forces have spent the summer digging mile after mile of fortifications and mining along a thousand-mile front.
Those defences are proving impregnable so far to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The war is currently in a state of stalemate.
Ukrainians fear as much as 15% of their country will remain indefinitely occupied.
Prigozhin may be dead but in their minds there are plenty more monsters where he came from ravaging their country and proving harder and harder to dislodge.