Mercenary warlord and one-time insurrection leader against Vladimir Putin’s Russian government Yevgeny Prigozhin was aboard a private jet that crashed north of Moscow, killing all aboard, Russian state media says.
UPDATE 22:30 — The Russian civil aviation authority Rosaviatsiya has confirmed that Wagner Group warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board the private jet that crashed in the Tver region outside of Moscow on Wednesday. Authorities previously reported that all those on board the plane died.
“According to the airline, the following passengers were on board the Embraer-135 (EBM-135BJ) aircraft: Propustin Sergey, Makaryan Evgeniy, Totmin Aleksandr, Chekalov Valeriy, Utkin Dmitriy, Matuseev Nikolay, Prigozhin Evgeniy. Crew members: Levshin Aleksei, commander, Karimov Rustam, co-pilot, Raspopova Kristina, flight attendant,” the authority’s officially recognised Telegram channel said.
UPDATE 21:20 — According to a post on a Telegram channel linked to the mercenary Wagner Group, Dmitry Utkin, a former special forces officer in the GRU Russian military intelligence branch who reportedly went on to found PMC Wagner, died alongside the mercenary group’s commander, Yevgeny Prighozhin, in a plane crash inside Russia on Wednesday. The ‘Grey Zone’ channel said that Utkin “died as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia.”
Utkin, who received four Orders of Courage of Russia, is reported to have used the call-sign ‘Wagner’ during his time in the Russian military in homage to German composer Richard Wagner. The call-sign would later be the basis for the name of the mercenary group he reportedly founded.
UPDATE 20:30 — A Telegram channel associated with the paramilitary Wagner Group, the ‘Grey Zone’, has claimed that Yevgeny Prigozhin was indeed killed in a plane crash outside Moscow on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the channel accused the Russian Air Force of shooting down the jet carrying the warlord, however, there has been no official confirmation on the cause of the crash at the time of this reporting.
The group said: “The assassination of Prigozhin would have catastrophic consequences. The people who gave the order do not understand the mood in the army and the morale at all.” It added: “Let this be a lesson to all. You always have to go to the end,” in a likely reference to Prighozhin’s failed coup attempt against the Kremlin.
The original story continues as follows…
An Embrarer-made private jet crashed in the Tver Oblast north of Moscow on Wednesday, killing all ten passengers and crew, Russian state media organisation TASS said Wednesday. In a separate flash shortly afterwards, the wires service also said Yevgeny Prigozhin was among those aboard.
It has been reported in the past that when travelling internationally, Prigozhin flew on a private jet of Embrarer type. The Federal Air Transport Agency said in a statement that an investigation had been launched into the crash, and it is said there were no casualties on the ground, as the aircraft crashed at an abandoned farm.
The claimed death of the warlord comes nearly two months to the day after he redirected his mercenary army from fighting in Ukraine towards Moscow, launching a march on the capital calling for serious changes at the top of the Russian state. While the coup quickly folded — allegedly in return for personal guarantees for Prigozhin’s safety — it was seen as a major event that shook the Russian state.
While Russian state media has referred to the lost Embraer jet today as a “crash” and “incident”, a media channel previously widely acknowledged by Western media as being “affiliated with Wagner”, the private army Prigozhin led, has claimed the aircraft was purposefully shot down.
The Wagner-linked group wrote Wednesday evening: “The Embraer Legacy 600 business jet with registration number RA-02795, which belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, was shot down by air defense fire from the Russian Defense Ministry in the Bologovsky district of the Tver region.”
The group claimed witnesses on the ground heard “two bursts of characteristic air defense”.
Whatever the truth of the situation, the possibility that Prigozhin may have found himself the target of an extrajudicial execution has not been far from the mind of some since he attempted to force change at the Russian Ministry of Defence by force, over what he claimed were their failures in Ukraine and internal corruption. Speaking after the insurrection, Former CIA director and retired U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus counselled Prigozhin to “be very careful around open windows”, a not-so-subtle nod to the very high numbers of prominent Russians who seem to find themselves defenestrated if they pose a threat to the Putin regime.
This story is developing, more follows.