MOSCOW (Agencies): Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on a private jet that crashed on Wednesday evening north of Moscow with no survivors, the Russian authorities said. There was no confirmation that Prigozhin was physically on board and Reuters could not immediately confirm that he was on the aircraft, which crashed north of Moscow.
“An investigation has been launched into an Embraer plane crash that occurred tonight in the Tver region. According to the passenger list, the name and surname of Yevgeny Prigozhin is among them,” Rosaviatsia, Russia’s aviation agency, was cited as saying by the state TASS news agency.
Russia’s emergency situations ministry said in a statement that a private Embraer Legacy aircraft travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg had crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Tver Region. It said that 10 people were on board, including three crew members. According to preliminary information, everyone on board was killed, it said.
Prigozhin, 62, spearheaded a mutiny against Russia’s top army brass on June 23-24 which President Vladimir Putin said could have tipped Russia into civil war. The mutiny was ended by negotiations and an apparent Kremlin deal which saw Prigozhin agree to relocate to neighbouring Belarus.
But he had appeared to move freely inside Russia after the deal nonetheless. Prigozhin, who had sought to topple Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, on Monday posted a video address that he suggested was shot in Africa.
Prigozhin turned that moment of triumph into an opportunity just days later to accuse Russia’s military top brass of being responsible for the failures in Ukraine, something only a select few can do publicly without drawing retribution from the Kremlin.
The running feud with the defence ministry reached new heights on Saturday when the Wagner leader claimed his fighters had crossed from Ukraine into the Russian border city of Rostov-on-Don – and that they would fight anyone who tried to stop them.
The Wagner chief has also questioned the official Kremlin version of why Russia invaded Ukraine. “The defence ministry is trying to deceive society and the president and tell us a story about how there was crazy aggression from Ukraine and that they were planning to attack us with the whole of NATO,” Prigozhin said in a video clip released on Telegram by his press service on Friday.