Russia Confirms Prigozhin Was on Crashed Plane

Jet carrying mercenary chief, deputy had 'dramatic descent'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2023 4:44 PM CDT
Russia Confirms Prigozhin Was on Doomed Plane
This image taken from video released by Ostorozhno Novosti on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, shows the crash site of a private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver Region.   (Ostorozhno Novosti via AP)

Russia's aviation authority says it has confirmed that Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was on a private plane that went down north of Moscow Wednesday—with no survivors. Social media channels linked to the mercenary group claimed the jet was shot down by Russian air defenses, which the Wall Street Journal notes would be a "very public execution" of a man who posed a serious threat to Vladimir Putin's role. Wagner founder Dmitry Utkin, whose military call sign gave the group its name, was also on the list of seven passengers and three crew members released by the aviation authority, reports the BBC.

The Wagner-linked Grey Zone channel on Telegram said Prigozhin, "a true patriot of his Motherland," died "as a result of actions by traitors of Russia," NBC reports. The channel vowed that his death would be avenged. President Biden, asked by reporters whether he thought Putin was behind the crash, said, "There's not much that happens in Russia that Putin's not behind." He added, "But I don't know enough to know the answer," per the New York Times.

The cause of the crash of the jet, which was bound for St. Petersburg, is still unclear. According to tracking service Flightradar24, the jet had a "dramatic descent" before it slammed into the ground, and videos show the plane heading almost directly downward, NBC reports. The AP says its frame-by-frame analysis of two videos "were consistent with some sort of explosion mid-flight." (More Yevgeny Prigozhin stories.)

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