The Russian Air Transport Agency confirmed that Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board the plane that crashed in the Tver region on Wednesday (23). Thus, the death of the head of the Wagner Group, which was in a collision course with the government of Russia, was officially confirmed.
In addition to him, the death of at least another commander of the group, Dmitry Utkin, was confirmed.
The Embraer executive jet, owned by Prigozhin, crashed near the village of Kuzhenkono, in the Tver region, on the night of this Wednesday (23). According to preliminary data from the Ministry for Emergency Situations of Russia, 10 people died: seven passengers and three crew members. The plane was flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
The Gray Zone Telegram channel, linked to the Wagner Group, published that Prigozhin’s plane was shot down by air defense. There is no official confirmation of this information.
“The head of the Wagner Group, Hero of Russia, a true patriot of his homeland, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, died as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia,” the channel says.
Prigozhin was a strong ally of Moscow during the first months of the war in Ukraine. But since the end of the rebellion on June 26, in which Prigozhin announced a “march to Moscow”, the fate of the Wagner Group, and especially its founder Yevgueny Prigozhin, has been in doubt.
Not only because its whereabouts are unknown – occasional appearances have been reported in Russia, and more recently in Africa -, but mainly because of the weariness with the Kremlin.
Find out who is the Russian Yevgueny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group paramilitary force ::
In initiating the mutiny against Moscow, he accused the Russian Ministry of Defense of attacks against its mercenary battalions. The government denied the allegations.
On June 24, Putin called the Wagner rebellion a “betrayal” and said that “any actions that break our unity” are “a stab in the back of our country and our people”.
Two days later, the Russian leader made another urgent statement, stating that the fighters from the Wagner could sign a contract with the regular forces of the Russian army or “go to Belarus”. He did not mention Prigozhin’s name in any of the statements.
The next day, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the guarantee that Prigozhin would be able to leave Russia and “go to Belarus” was the Russian president’s word.
On 10 July, it was reported that Yevgueny Prigozhin met with Vladimir Putin on 1 July in the Kremlin along with other Wagner fighters. Dmitry Peskov confirmed this information.
His last appearance in a recorded video was last August 21 in Africa, in which Prigozhin talks about carrying out tasks on the African continent. “A nightmare of ISIS (Islamic State), Al-Qaeda and other gangsters. We hired real heroes and continued to fulfill the tasks that were set for us and that we promised we would fulfill,” Prigozhin said. The location where the video was filmed was not specified.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho