Russian authorities confirm that Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the private plane that crashed on its way to St. Petersburg.
The Wagner group’s founder Dmitrij Utkin was also on the plane.
An image from a Wagner-linked channel on the messaging service Telegram of what is said to be the crashed aircraft. Image provider AFP cannot find independent confirmation that it is the plane wreckage in question.
The Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia has published a list of those on board the Embraer Legacy aircraft that was on its way from the capital Moscow to St. Petersburg on Wednesday evening.
Among the ten on board were both Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and its founder Dmitry Utkin, according to Rosaviatsia, which refers to the airline.
“According to the airline, the following passengers were on board the Embraer 135 aircraft,” writes Rosaviatsia and then mentions ten names, including Prigozhin and Utkin.
The plane was in the air for about 30 minutes before it crashed early Wednesday evening, and caught fire when it hit the ground, rescue services told state news agency Tass.
It is unclear what caused the crash.
Appeared in video
A picture has been posted on a Wagner-linked channel on the messaging service Telegram of something burning in a field, said to be the crashed plane. The image provider AFP cannot confirm that it is indeed the plane wreck in question.
On Tuesday, Yevgeny Prigozhin appeared in a video clip for the first time since the aborted coup attempt in Russia during the Midsummer weekend.
In the video clip, the 62-year-old Wagner leader was seen standing in a desert area, wearing camouflage clothing with an automatic carbine in his hands. In the distance, more armed men and a pickup could be seen.
– We make sure to make Russia bigger on all continents and Africa more free, Prigozhin declares in the clip.
On June 23, Prigozhin announced that he would begin an armed march through Russia toward Moscow with 25,000 troops. The next day, Wagner’s forces moved in and took over the city of Rostov-on-Don, whereupon they continued to roll north in a column that is said to have come as close as 20 miles from Moscow before the uprising was suddenly called off.
A settlement was reached with Belarus Russia-allied leader Aleksandr Lukashenko at the negotiating table. They agreed that Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner soldiers involved would receive impunity and security guarantees, as well as free passage to Belarus, which Russian President Vladimir Putin was said to have promised. What the deal entailed exactly – or what the leaders have quietly worked out – is not known.
In mid-August, the BBC reported that the Wagner group has registered a company for “educational activities” in Belarus.
Facts: Prigozhin, the Wagner group and the uprising
The Wagner group is a private mercenary company that has long operated with unofficial connections to the Russian state leadership.
Its top leader and main financier is Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former restaurateur from St. Petersburg and now oligarch.
A conflict has been going on during the Ukraine war between Prigozhin and Russia’s military leadership – Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
On Wednesday evening, Russian authorities said Prigozhin was on the passenger list of a private jet that crashed en route from Moscow to St Petersburg. All ten people on board are said to have died.