Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is among the ten people aboard a private jet to have died after it crashed north of Moscow earlier today.
The Embraer Legacy plane enroute to St Petersburg from Moscow crashed near the Tver region village of Kuzhenkino. Russia’s emergency ministry said all 10 people on the plane, including three crew members, were killed.
The jet reportedly belonged to Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner private military company that led an unsuccessful coup against Russian President Valdimir Putin in June. Prigozhin defied orders to sign a contract placing his troops under Defense Ministry command and released a video in which he claimed Russian government’s justifications for invading Ukraine were based on lies.
Wagner mercenaries shot down several aircraft and killed at least 13 Russian service members during the armed rebellion.
At the time of the mutiny, Putin said Wagner had “betrayed Russia and will answer for it”, though he then allowed Prigozhin and his fighters to redeploy to Belarus.
Putin was attending a publicly televised concert in honor of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Kursk at the time of the crash. Soon after reports of the incident emerged, he is said to have rushed to Moscow.
Earlier, a Wagner-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone claimed that the jet was shot down by air defenses in Tver region.
Wagner fought alongside Russia's regular army in Ukraine. After the short-lived coup, the Kremlin said that he would be exiled to Belarus, and his fighters would either retire, follow him there, or join the Russian military.
Flight tracking service, Flightradar24 reports that the aircraft continued in level flight at an altitude of about 8,500 meters until 6:19 p.m. Moscow time (3:19 p.m. GMT) on Wednesday, when its vertical altitude sharply declined.
After that, the plane climbed to a maximum altitude of roughly 9,150 meters and then descended to 8,400 meters. The aircraft then leveled off at an altitude of 8,900 meters before starting to descend sharply. Flightradar24 received the last data about the flight when the plane was at an altitude of about 6,000 meters. All recorded altitude changes took place within a span of 32 seconds.