Wagner chief presumed to have died in plane crash

2023-08-25 08:20:22China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of Russian private military group Wagner, which staged a brief and unsuccessful mutiny in June, was presumed to have died in a plane crash on Wednesday near Moscow with no survivors, Russian officials said.

"An investigation has been launched into the crash of the Embraer aircraft," the Federal Air Transport Agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The agency published the names of all 10 people on board the plane, including Prigozhin and that of Dmitry Utkin, his right-hand man who helped found the group. Russia's Investigative Committee said it had opened an investigation.

There were seven passengers and three crew members on board the private jet when it crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Services said.

Prigozhin's death would leave the Wagner Group leaderless and raise questions about its future operations, according to Reuters.

Wreckage of the plane northwest of Moscow was scattered over a radius of 2 kilometers, and the bodies of eight people had been found, state media Russia 24 reported on Thursday.

Earlier, TASS news agency reported the plane "burned up" on impact after being in the air for about half an hour.

The RIA Novosti news agency also reported that one of the fragments of the plane was lying on the entry road into Kuzhenkino, which is 2 km from the crash site.

The crash came months after Wagner launched a short rebellion that was suddenly called off in a deal that required Prigozhin and his fighters to relocate to Belarus.

Some people gathered in St. Petersburg on Wednesday night to leave tributes for the Wagner founder. People also placed flowers, lit candles and left Wagner chevron patches near the entrance of the Wagner Center.

Prigozhin posted a video address on Monday that he suggested was made in Africa. He turned up at a Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg in July.

Also this week, Russian media reported, citing anonymous sources, that General Sergei Surovikin had been dismissed from his position as commander of the country's air force.

Surovikin, who at one point led Russia's operation in Ukraine, has not been seen in public since the failed mutiny, when he recorded a video address urging Prigozhin's forces to pull back.

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