Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner Chief Died in Plane crash: Russian agency confirms

Yevgeny Prigozhin, Head of Wagner mercenary force died in a plane crash.

The destiny of Yevgeny Prigozhin has been intertwined with the Kremlin for many years. He was a dependable government contractor as well as the commander of the Wagner mercenary force, which fought in Ukraine and was held accountable for carrying out Russia’s nefarious activities in Syria and Africa. But many in Russia and abroad began to question how long he could survive after inciting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wrath when he turned his men toward Moscow two months ago.

The founder of the Wagner private military company has been the focus of intense speculation regarding his whereabouts ever since he launched the mutiny, so suspicions were aroused immediately after the crash.

In exchange for a safe haven for himself and the men leading the uprising, Prigozhin made a deal with Putin and the head of Belarus. He was seen in an advertisement earlier this week and was rumored to reappear occasionally in Russia. However, the Russian civil aviation agency said on Wednesday that he was on a plane that crashed north of Moscow, killing all ten occupants.

The airline was cited by Russia’s civil aviation agency, which claimed that Prigozhin was on board. The founder of the Wagner private military company has been the focus of intense speculation regarding his whereabouts ever since he launched the mutiny, so suspicions were aroused immediately after the crash. President Vladimir Putin promised to exact revenge, calling the uprising “treason” and a “stab in the back” at the time. However, Prigozhin’s charges were quickly dropped. The head of Wagner, whose forces were among Russia’s strongest in the battlefield in Ukraine, was permitted to flee to Belarus, although he was said to occasionally visit Russia.

Additionally, the crash occurs after Russian media revealed that a senior general associated with Prigozhin was relieved of his command as the air force’s commander. According to officials cited by Russia’s state news agency Tass, a plane carrying three crew members and seven passengers went down nearly 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of the capital while flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

Rosaviatsia, the Russian civilian aviation agency, promptly announced that he was on the manifest and subsequently clarified that he was, in fact, on board, citing airline reports.

Vladimir Rogov, an official appointed by Russia in the partially occupied Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, had earlier claimed to have spoken with Wagner commanders who verified the presence of Dmitry Utkin, whose call sign Wagner became the company’s name, and Prigozhin.

Russian expert Keir Giles of Chatham House, a think tank focused on foreign policy, had advised people to exercise caution when reading about Prigozhin’s passing. To hide his travels, he claimed that “multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeniy Prigozhin.” A private aircraft that Prigozhin had previously flown took off from Moscow on Wednesday evening, according to flight tracking data obtained by The Associated Press. Minutes later, the aircraft’s transponder signal vanished.

When the plane reached altitude and accelerated, the signal abruptly stopped. In a picture of burning wreckage shared on social media by a pro-Wagner account, a partial tail number that matched Prigozhin’s previous jet was visible. Videos were posted by the pro-Wagner Telegram channel Grey Zone, which showed the aircraft twisting erratically as it fell and plummeting from a massive cloud of smoke like a stone. Severe damage to an aircraft can causes such freefalls, and an AP frame-by-frame examination of two videos revealed evidence of an explosion that happened in mid-air. It looked from the photos that one of the plane’s wings was missing.

Russian Investigative Committee launched an inquiry into the crash after receiving allegations of breaking air safety regulations. The search for all ten bodies had been completed at the crash site, according to an early Thursday report from Interfax, which quoted emergency officials. In the past eighteen months, Prigozhin’s forces have engaged in some of the bloodiest battles in Ukraine; even if his death is confirmed, it is unlikely to have any impact on Russia’s war there. His forces withdrew from direct combat in late May, having taken the city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region. The Russian forces had been fighting for months to take control of Bakhmut, the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Prigozhin gained the moniker “Putin’s chef” after using that connection to launch a catering company and secure large contracts with the Russian government. Later on, he ventured into other fields, such as media and the notorious internet “troll factory,” which resulted in his indictment in the United States for attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election. In the weeks that followed Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in April 2014, Wagner was first observed in action in eastern Ukraine, shortly after a separatist conflict broke out there. Despite copious evidence to the contrary, Russia at the time denied sending its own troops.

Wagner personnel were also sent to Syria, where the government of President Bashar Assad was backed by Russia in a civil war. They fought alongside commander Khalifa Hifter’s forces in Libya. The group has also conducted operations in Mali and the Central African Republic. But Prigozhin did not admit to creating, directing, and funding Wagner until September 2022. By that time, his mercenaries were fighting and dying in large numbers throughout Ukraine, particularly in the destroyed town of Bakhmut. These men included those he had recruited from Russian prisons.

Throughout Africa, particularly in the Central African Republic, Libya, and Mali, Western nations and U.N. experts have accused the mercenaries of violating human rights. Prigozhin helped to cultivate Wagner’s reputation for brutality. An armed group of people—possibly Wagner contractors—were seen torturing and killing a Syrian man with a sledgehammer in a 2017 internet video, after which his body was burned and disfigured. Following his purported repatriation to the Ukrainian side, a former Wagner contractor was seen in another video from 2022 being fatally beaten with a sledgehammer.