Russia's Prigozhin is dead in plane crash, Wagner group confirms

A view shows plane wreckage on fire following an alleged air accident at a location given as Tver region, Russia. (Photo/Reuters)

Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has died, a Telegram channel affiliated with his Wagner group reported.

"The head of the Wagner Group, a Hero of Russia, a true patriot of his Motherland – Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin died as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia," a post in the Grey Zone channel said on Wednesday.

The confirmation came after Russian authorities earlier said Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on a private jet that crashed north of Moscow on Wednesday evening with no survivors.

"An investigation has been launched into an Embraer plane crash that occurred tonight in the Tver region. According to the passenger list, the name and surname of Yevgeny Prigozhin is among them," Rosaviatsia, Russia's aviation agency, was cited as saying by the state TASS news agency.

Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement that a private Embraer Legacy aircraft travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg had crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Tver Region.

It said that 10 people had been on board, including three crew members. According to preliminary information, everyone on board had been killed, it said.

Planemaker says it's compliant with sanctions on Russia

Later, after the incident, Brazilian planemaker Embraer said it was compliant with all international sanctions imposed on Russia.

"Embraer has complied with international sanctions imposed on Russia," a company spokesperson said.

Flightradar24 online tracker showed that the Embraer Legacy 600 (plane number RA-02795) said to be carrying Prigozhin, had dropped off the radar at 6:11 pm (1511 GMT).

An unverified video clip posted to social media showed a plane resembling a private jet falling out of the sky toward the Earth.

The Legacy 600 entered service in 2002, according to the website International Aviation HQ, with almost 300 produced until production ceased in 2020.

There is only one recorded accident involving a Legacy 600, which occurred in 2006 when it crashed into a Gol 737 on its way from the Embraer factory in Brazil to the United States, International Aviation HQ said.

Despite damages to the aircraft, the pilot landed the plane and there were no deaths or injuries.

A subsequent inquiry attributed blame to the Legacy's crew rather than any mechanical failure, the website said.

US, Ukraine reaction

The possible death of Wagner chief Prigozhin in a plane crash would not be a surprise given his falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a senior White House official said.

"We have seen the reports" of the crash, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement on Wednesday.

"If confirmed, no one should be surprised," she said.

"The disastrous war in Ukraine led to a private army marching on Moscow, and now - it would seem - to this."

The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident, in which a private aircraft plunged to the ground northwest of Moscow.

Meanwhile, a senior aide to the Ukrainian presidency said that the crash was a signal from the Kremlin.

"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'", Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak wrote on social media.

The exiled leader of the opposition of Belarus, where some Wagner fighters moved after their short-lived mutiny in Russia, said that no Belarusian would miss Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is feared dead in a plane crash.

"The criminal Prigozhin won't be missed in Belarus. He was a murderer and should be remembered as such. His death might dismantle Wagner's presence in Belarus, reducing the threat to our nation and neighbours," Belarusian opposition chief Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said on social media.

Mutiny against Russia's army

Prigozhin, 62, spearheaded a mutiny against Russia's top army brass on June 23-24 which President Vladimir Putin said could have tipped Russia into civil war. The mutiny was ended by negotiations and an apparent Kremlin deal which saw Prigozhin agree to relocate to neighbouring Belarus. But he had appeared to move freely inside Russia after the deal nonetheless.

Prigozhin, who had sought to topple Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, on Monday posted a video address that he suggested was shot in Africa.


Source: TRT