Head of Wagner Mercenary Group Dies in Plane Crash: Russian Officials Confirm

Tragedy Strikes as Plane Carrying Key Figure of Wagner Group Crashes

In a shocking turn of events, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, responsible for a daring coup attempt against Russia’s military leadership in June, has lost his life in a plane crash. Russian officials have confirmed that the crash occurred on Wednesday, claiming the lives of all passengers on board.

The crash comes merely two months after Yevgeny Prigozhin spearheaded a brief but impactful rebellion, marking one of the most significant challenges to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority since he assumed power. The aftermath of Prigozhin’s audacious move had cast uncertainty over the fate of the Wagner group and its enigmatic leader.

Russia’s Ministry for Emergency Situations announced the tragic incident involving a private plane traveling between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Initial reports indicate that the crash resulted in the fatalities of all 10 individuals on board, including the three crew members, according to the ministry’s statement.

Subsequent information released by Russia’s aviation agency confirmed that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, was among the passengers on the ill-fated flight. Rosaviatsia, the agency responsible for civil aviation oversight, released a statement detailing the passengers aboard the Embraer-135 (EBM-135BJ) aircraft. The list included Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, an elusive figure known for managing Wagner’s operations and alleged ties to Russian military intelligence.

Disturbing footage, purportedly from Wagner-linked Telegram channels, depicted the wreckage of the plane engulfed in flames within a field. However, these visuals have not been independently verified by AFP.

Rosaviatsia promptly initiated a special commission to investigate the crash, which involved an aircraft belonging to MNT-Aero. Simultaneously, Russia’s Investigative Committee, responsible for probing serious crimes, launched its own investigation into the incident.

As the news broke, President Vladimir Putin was delivering a speech commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Kursk battle during World War II. Notably, he made no mention of the crash but praised the dedication of Russian soldiers engaged in the ongoing military operation in Ukraine.

The international community responded swiftly to the initial reports of the crash. US President Joe Biden remarked, “I cannot confirm the specifics, but I am not taken aback. Rarely does an event occur in Russia without President Putin’s involvement. My understanding, however, remains limited.”

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak took to social media to offer his perspective on the tragedy. He interpreted the plane crash as “a warning from Putin to Russia’s elites in light of the forthcoming 2024 elections. A clear message: ‘Beware! Disloyalty comes at a fatal cost.'”

The crash of the plane carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin has sent shockwaves through Russia and the international community, raising questions about its implications for the future of the Wagner group and the broader political landscape in the country.

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