Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is believed to be dead following the crash of a private jet in Russia’s Tver Oblast. Russian authorities told the media that Prigozhin was listed as a passenger of the plane and that all 10 people onboard were killed in the crash.
“The Embraer plane was flying out of Sheremetyevo to St. Petersburg. There were three crew and seven passengers on board. They all died,” Russia’s Emergencies Ministry told TASS.
Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency said that “an investigation of the Embraer plane crash that happened in the Tver Region this evening was initiated. According to the passenger list, first and last name of Yevgeny Prigozhin was included in this list.”
A video circulating on social media purports to show the plane falling from the sky, and other videos show a devastating wreck. A Wagner-linked Telegram claimed Russian air defenses downed the plane, but nothing is confirmed, and other Russian channels speculated a bomb may have been planted onboard.
Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency published the list of all the passengers who were also on the plane. The list includes Dmitry Utkin, a Wagner commander who is believed to be a co-founder of the mercenary group.
The incident occurred just two days after a video of Prigozhin was posted on Telegram, where he appeared to be in Africa. In the video, he vowed to make Africa “more free” and “Russia even greater on every continent.”
Before the video, which was posted on Monday, Prigozhin had stayed relatively out of the public eye after his short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military establishment was put down in June.
The downing of the plane came after reports surfaced that Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who is suspected of having foreknowledge of Prigozhin’s uprising, was removed from his position as the head of Russian Aerospace Forces.
When asked by reporters about the news, President Biden said he didn’t know what happened but that he was “not surprised.”