Russia confirms Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in plane crash

Russia's Investigative Committee confirms mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death in a plane crash has been confirmed by Russian officials.

Prigozhin and six top Wagner lieutenants were on a business jet that crashed on Wednesday soon after taking off from Moscow, with a crew of three.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement on Sunday that forensic testing of the 10 bodies recovered at the site of the crash had been identified, and their identities “conform to the manifest.”

The statement did not offer any possible cause of the crash.

The crash came exactly two months after Prigozhin staged a mutiny against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prigozhin with Vladimir Putin in 2010. / Credit: AP

Despite Putin calling the biggest challenge to his authority in his 23-year rule an act of “treason” and vowing to punish those involved, the Kremlin cut a deal with Prigozhin to end the armed revolt, saying he would be allowed to walk free without facing any charges and to resettle in Belarus.

Putin even hosted Prigozhin at the Kremlin just weeks later.

But many believed the threat to Prigozhin was not over and Western politicians and commentators have suggested the Russian president was the architect of an assassination, claims the Kremlin reject as a “complete lie.”

US intelligence have concluded an explosion brought the plane down, which Moscow denies.

Prigozhin’s second-in-command, Dmitry Utkin and Wagner logistics mastermind Valery Chekalov, were also killed in the crash. Utkin was long believed to have founded Wagner and baptized the group with his nom de guerre.

The fate of Wagner, which until recently played a prominent role in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine and was involved in a number of African and Middle Eastern countries, has remained uncertain.

Russian servicemen guard a road towards a private jet crash. / Credit: AP

After June’s mutiny, the Kremlin said Prigozhin would be exiled in Belarus, and his fighters were offered three options: to follow him there, retire or enlist in Russia’s regular army and return to Ukraine, where Wagner mercenaries had fought alongside Russian troops.

Several thousand Wagner mercenaries opted to move to Belarus, where a camp was set up for them southeast of the capital, Minsk.

Smoke and flames rise from a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia. / Credit: AP

Prigozhin’s private jet crashed en route from Moscow to St Petersburg, some 185 miles north of the Russian capital.

Videos shared by the pro-Wagner Telegram channel Grey Zone showed a plane dropping from a large cloud of smoke.

It twisted as it fell and one of its wings appeared to be missing.

In a televised address two days after Wednesday’s crash, President Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the dead and said that investigators will begin looking into the incident.

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