(DCWatchdog.com) – Yevgeny Prigozhin, the billionaire in charge of the dreaded Russian mercenary army “Wagner Group” who led a coup attempt against Vladimir Putin in June, has indeed died after his private jet crashed on Wednesday, Moscow officials claim.
Prigozhin and other key officials of the Wagner Group, most notably its military commander Dmitry Utkin, were registered as passengers on the oligarch’s private plane flying northwest from Russia’s capital, Moscow, to the oligarch’s home city of St. Petersburg.
Prigozhin’s jet, an Embraer Legacy 600, with ten people on board, seven passengers, and three crew members, crashed near Kuzhenkino in the Tver Region, northwest of Moscow, at about 5:19 p.m. local time on Wednesday.
According to flight tracking data, the plane didn’t show any signs of problem until 30 seconds before it crashed, which saw a “precipitous drop,” Reuters reports Thursday.
The aircraft made a “sudden downward vertical,” commented Ian Petchenik of Flightradar24.
“Whatever happened, happened quickly. They may have been wrestling (with the aircraft) after whatever happened. [Before the sudden drop, there was] no indication that there was anything wrong with this aircraft,” he elaborated.
Social media videos from the crash site have shown the burning plane wreckage and human remains.
Many Russian, Ukrainian, and international pundits questioned whether Prigozhin’s jet was downed by Russia’s military under Putin’s order, whether an order to do so was given by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu acting independently, or whether the FSB intelligence agency, the former KGB’s successor, blew up the plane in the air using an explosive device.
There have been speculations that the incident might have been staged by Prigozhin, faking his death to retire safely.
According to France-based Russian human rights activists Vladimir Osechkin, who has sources at the FSB, there is a 99.99% certainty that Prigozhin has died in the crash.
On Thursday, Rosaviatsia, Russia’s aviation agency, stated officially that ten bodies had been retrieved and that the mercenary leader was on board the aircraft.
Known as “Putin’s Chef” due to his highly profitable catering contracts with the Russian military, Progozhin was close to the Russian leader for over 20 years.
Since 2014, he has been in charge of the so-called Private Military Company “Wagner,” a shadowy private army answering to the Russian president, which has backed up Russian allies and rogue state dictators throughout the Middle East and Africa in exchange for mineral resource revenues.
As Putin’s invasion of Ukraine ran into trouble in the spring of 2022, much of the Wagner Group was displayed there, creating significant difficulties for the Ukrainian defenders. The next few months saw growing tensions between the Russian military and the Wagnerites, with Prigozhin frequently lashing out against the Defense Ministry.
On June 24, 2023, Prigozhin initiated a sudden crusade against Moscow’s official military leaders, which escalated in hours towards a full-scape coup that could topple Putin.
In the evening, the mercenary leader called off the onslaught towards the Russian capital, reaching a deal with Putin with mediation from Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, which was supposed to see “Wagner” re-focus on African operations.
Many pundits, such as the UK-based analytical website Bellingcat, predicted that either Prigozhin would be “taken out” shortly or there would be a second coup attempt in Russia.
In his last social media video from several days ago, Prigozhin spoke from a Wagner camp in the West African nation of Niger.
Observers have noted that he plummeted to his death on the two-month anniversary of his aborted coup-like operation against Moscow.
UPDATE: Telegram channel associated with Wagner Group reports Yevgeny Prigozhin did indeed die in a plane crash outside Moscow. The group warned that the "assassination of Prigozhin would have catastrophic consequences."https://t.co/ZoNrVOrn3Y
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 23, 2023