Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group that staged a short-lived rebellion against top military leaders in June, is on the passenger list of a private jet that crashed outside Moscow on Wednesday, killing all 10 people on Wednesday. blackboard. Russian authorities have not confirmed his death, but at least one Western intelligence official, several Russian military bloggers, and a Telegram account linked to his organization said he was killed.
The plane carrying Mr. Prigozhin as a passenger left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Wednesday at around 6pm local time, bound for St. Petersburg. The plane crashed in a wooded area near the village of Kozkino in the Tver region, less than 100 miles northwest of Moscow.
Later that day, Russia’s state information agency RIA Novosti released an unconfirmed video that appeared to show an aircraft that spun out of control and fell almost vertically from the sky, with a cloud of faint gray smoke trailing behind it. The shaky video, which appears to have been shot with a mobile phone, did not show the impact of the aircraft.
Video footage shared on messaging app Telegram appears to show the plane, an Embraer Legacy 600 business jet, burning to the ground. The livery and partial registration number, RA-02795, on the aircraft match an aircraft known to be used by Mr. Prigozhin.
Emergency workers were at the crash site on Thursday, and photos published by Russian and international media showed parts of the plane, including a section of the blue wing, or tail fin.
The Russian Aviation Authority did not provide any comment on the cause of the accident, and announced that it had formed a special committee to investigate “the circumstances and causes of the accident.”
Who was on the plane?
The flight’s passenger manifest, released by Russian authorities, listed 10 people on board. Among the seven aforementioned passengers were Mr. Prigozhin and Wagner’s commander-in-chief, Dmitry Utkin. It also included three crew members. Russian aviation authorities said all those on board had died.
Was Mr. Prigozhin killed?
Gray Zone, a Telegram account linked to the Wagner Group, said Mr. Prigozhin had died. But there was no official confirmation of his fate from Wagner or the Russian authorities.
A senior Western intelligence official said Mr. Prigozhin was on the plane. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments, said the verdict was based on “many indicators” that his government had evaluated. US officials said they could not confirm that Mr. Prigozhin was killed in the crash, or what caused the plane to go down.
What did the Kremlin say?
There was no comment from the Kremlin on the incident or on Mr. Prigozhin’s fate. In his only public remarks since Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered brief remarks via video link at the BRICS summit in South Africa on Thursday. He made no mention of recent events in Russia or Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not comment on the incident at a news conference in Johannesburg.
Who is Mr. Prigozhin?
After getting out of prison just as the Soviet Union was collapsing, Mr. Prigozhin began his post-criminal career selling hot dogs on street corners in St. Petersburg. There, he befriended Mr. Putin, then a junior official in the city government.
Benefiting from his lifelong friendship with Mr. Putin, Mr. Prigozhin went on to make a fortune in the catering business, even earning the nickname “Putin’s chef” due to his catering contracts with the Kremlin and the Russian military.
From there, his benefactor Mr. Prigozhin entrusted him with a number of more important tasks that would have been better dealt with away from the Kremlin. He went on to build up the Wagner Special Military Force, which played a major role in the fighting in Ukraine, particularly in the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut, which was perhaps the bloodiest of the war. Wagner’s forces also fought in Syria and Libya, played a key paramilitary role in supporting governments in African countries, including Mali and the Central African Republic, and earned a reputation for brutality.
After months of increasingly harsh criticism of the Russian military leadership’s campaign in Ukraine, Mr. Prigozhin led a short-lived revolt against senior officers in June. The brief insurgency, the most dramatic and public challenge to Mr. Putin’s rule in decades, was defused, the Kremlin announced an agreement to end hostilities, and Wagner’s forces were allowed to either partner with the Russian army or move into Belarus. close Russian ally.
Since then, Mr. Prigozhin, who previously maintained a highly visible presence on social media, has remained largely silent until he reappeared in what appeared to be a Wagner recruiting video days before the crash.
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