The head of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Evgeny Prigoyhin, who was behind a failed rebellion against the Kremlin in June, is said to be on the passenger list of a plane that crashed in Russia, according to Russian news agencies. The ten passengers are reported dead, according to Russian authorities, but it is unknown if Prigoyhin was on board.
Was Evgeny Prigoyhin on board the plane that crashed in Russia? According to Ria Novosti, TASS and Interfax, referring to the Russian air transport agency Rossaviatsia, the name of Evgeny Prigoyhin is on the passenger manifest of the plane that was supposed to travel from Moscow to St. Petersburg on August 23. However, there is no confirmation if he was on board.
“There were 10 people on board, including 3 crew members. According to initial information, all people on board have died,” previously stated the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations on Telegram.
The private aircraft Embraer Legacy crashed near the village of Kuyenkino in the Tver region, northwest of Moscow.
“The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations is conducting search operations,” it further stated.
Eight bodies have been found at the crash site according to rescue services. The search is ongoing.
Russian media reported that Dmitry Outkine, a close associate of Evgeny Prigoyhin, was also on the plane, but this has not been confirmed yet. Both men were reportedly traveling to Moscow for a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Defense.
No comments have been made by the Kremlin and the Ministry of Defense at this time.
Flight tracking data shows that shortly after the Embraer aircraft crashed, a second private plane linked to Evgeny Prigoyhin turned back towards Moscow, apparently also heading towards St. Petersburg, where Prigoyhin’s main residence is located.
Videos, the authenticity of which could not be confirmed by AFP, have been circulated on several Telegram channels claiming to be affiliated with Wagner, showing debris on fire in a field and an aircraft falling from the sky.
On June 23, Evgeny Prigoyhin was involved in a rebellion against the Russian military leadership and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu. His men briefly captured military sites in southern Russia before heading towards Moscow.
Evgeny Prigoyhin quickly abandoned this mutiny, which took place during the conflict in Ukraine. It ended on the evening of June 24 with an agreement for Prigoyhin to leave for Belarus, while his fighters could join him there, enter the regular Russian army, or return to civilian life.
On August 21, he appeared in a video released by groups close to Wagner on social media, claiming to be in Africa. In a desert landscape, he stated that he was working to “make Russia even greater on all continents and Africa even freer.”
Despite the death of Wagner’s leader not being confirmed and potentially taking days for autopsy results on the bodies, reactions are multiplying. In Ukraine, an advisor to President Zelensky referred to it as a “signal.” “The spectacular elimination of Prigoyhin and the Wagner command two months after their attempted coup is a signal from Putin to the Russian elites ahead of the 2024 elections,” said Mykhailo Podoliak on X (formerly Twitter), stating that “Putin forgives no one.”
US President Joe Biden, who is in the western US mountains with his family, has been informed of the situation, according to the White House. “We have seen what has been reported. If confirmed, it would not be a surprise to anyone,” said Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the National Security Council of the US government. AFP