MOSCOW, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Russia's most powerful mercenary Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board a plane which crashed on Wednesday evening north of Moscow with no survivors, the Russian authorities said, two months to the day after he led an abortive mutiny against the army top brass.
There was no official comment from the Kremlin or the Defence Ministry on the fate of Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group and a self-declared enemy of the army's leadership over what he argued was its incompetent prosecution of Russia's war in Ukraine.
A Telegram channel linked to Wagner, Grey Zone, pronounced him dead however, and hailed him as a hero and a patriot who it said had died at the hands of unidentified people it called "traitors to Russia."
Amid fevered speculation and an absence of verifiable facts, some of his supporters pointed the finger of blame at the Russian state; others at Ukraine which was due to mark its independence day on Thursday.
A building housing Wagner's offices in St Petersburg lit up its windows after dark in such a way as to display a giant cross in a mark of respect and mourning.
Prigozhin's death would leave the Wagner Group, which incurred President Vladimir Putin's wrath in June by staging an abortive armed mutiny against the army's top brass, leaderless and raise questions about its future operations in Africa and elsewhere. Regardless of who or what was behind the crash, his death would also free Putin of the most serious challenge to the Russian leader's authority since he came to power in 1999.
Wagner was also a co-founder of Plane
Russia's aviation agency, Rosaviatsia, released the names of 10 people aboard the ill-fated plane, including Prigozhin and his right-hand man, Dmitry Utkin, who helped track down the group of mercenaries carrying the call sign of Wagner.
Russian investigators said they had opened a criminal investigation to determine what happened. Several sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Russian media they believed the plane was shot down by one or more surface-to-air missiles. Reuters could not confirm this.
Russia's Emergencies Ministry said the plane was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg when it crashed near the village of Korhykino in the Tver region. US President Joe Biden said: "I'm not sure what happened. But I'm not surprised... Not much happened in Russia and Putin wasn't behind it, but I don't know enough to find out what happened and what happened. happened." "?" answered. "
Russian authorities have branded Abbas Galliamov, a former Putin speechwriter turned critic, a "foreign agent". He cemented his authority by suggesting the Russian leader, who is expected to seek re-election next year, was behind the incident.
"The establishment is now convinced that it is impossible to oppose Putin. Putin is strong enough to take revenge," Galliamov wrote in a telegram.
Bill Browder, a businessman with years of experience in Russia and another critic of the Kremlin, agrees. "Putin will never forgive or forget," Blau said. "He looks like a weak and humiliated person. Prigozhin (after defecting) is running and doesn't care about the world. This will consolidate his power." .
The second flight connects with Prigozhin
Shortly after the plane descended from the sky, Prigozhin was contacted by another private plane, which also appeared to be headed for St. Petersburg. Prigozhin Air Base in St. Petersburg returned to Moscow, displayed flight tracking data and landed.
Prigozhin, 62, led a June 23-2
rebellion against Russia's top military that Putin says could plunge Russia into civil war. Wagner fighter jets shot down Russian attack helicopters during the uprising, killing an unknown number of pilots and infuriating the military.
He also spent months criticizing Russia's war in Ukraine, which Moscow described as a "special military operation" and the attempt to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
Many Russians wondered how he managed to ignore such harsh criticism without consequence.
The rebellion ended with an apparent Kremlin deal in which Prigorgin agreed to move to neighboring Belarus. But in fact it appears that he is free to move around Russia under the agreement, which would ensure his personal safety. Prigozhin released a video address on Monday that he said was filmed in Africa and presented at a Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg. Saint Petersburg in July.
Unconfirmed Russian media reported that Prigozhin and his associates participated in meetings with Russian Defense Ministry officials.
Reuters could not confirm this, nor could the Ministry of Defence.
's online tracker showed that the Embraer Legacy 600 (flight number RA-02795) carrying Prigozhin disappeared from radar at 18:11. (3:11 p.m. GMT). Unconfirmed video footage posted on social media showed what appeared to be a private jet descending from the sky to the ground. Another unconfirmed video showed the wreckage of the plane still smoking on the ground. At least one body can be seen. The Tass news agency reported that rescuers had recovered seven bodies from the scene.
About the Creator
news and information blogger who covers the topics of current events, what's happening, what's new, how to, how it happened, what's going on, the truth, the secret of. Interested in learning about new things and sharing them with others.