Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin feared dead after Russia plane crash

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A private plane has crashed in Moscow’s Tver region, killing all 10 people on board.
Russia news agency TASS reports that Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was among those on board.
Russia’s civilian aviation regulator, Rosaviatsia, also said Prigozhin was on the passenger list. However, it was not immediately clear if he had boarded the flight.

The Embraer aircraft, en route from Moscow to St Petersburg, was carrying seven passengers and three crew, TASS reported on Wednesday.

“A private Embraer Legacy aircraft travelling from Moscow to Saint Petersburg crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Tver Region. There were 10 people on board, including 3 crew members. According to preliminary information, all those on board died,” the ministry for emergency situation said on Telegram.
Danield Hawkins, a journalist in Moscow, told Al Jazeera that “reports in the Russian media, unconfirmed so far, are saying this aircraft could have been taken down by air defence systems”.

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“Prigozhin was among those on board or was at least listed as among those people on board.
“Some journalists report they’re in touch with his press secretary who is refusing to confirm that. A second jet was also in the air that’s turned around and gone back to St Petersburg.”
Prigozhin led a short-lived armed rebellion against the Russian leadership in June, posing the gravest challenge ever to President Vladimir Putin’s two-decade grip on power.

Prigozhin had his mercenaries occupy the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and then sent military columns marching towards Moscow.
He called the Russian military leadership corrupt and incompetent. He had complained for months of inadequate munitions supplies for his fighters serving on the frontlines of Putin’s war in Ukraine.
At the time, Putin described the revolt as “treason”.
But shortly before his troops reached Moscow, Prigozhin ordered a retreat after negotiations with the Kremlin, in
which Belarusian

leader Alexander Lukashenko acted as mediator.

As part of the deal reached to escape prosecution, Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters were offered sanctuary in Belarus.

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

There have been many questions about his whereabouts since he led his mercenary soldiers on a short-lived mutiny against Moscow on June 23.
A video, allegedly of Prigozhin, was released just two days ago on Telegram and appeared to show him in Africa. It would be his first video since the abandoned mutiny.

Wagner forces were involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, having played a key role in the battle for Bakhmut. However, disputes between the mercenary group and the official Russian army built up until Prigozhin decided to pull his troops out of Ukraine and march on Moscow, taking the key city of Rostov-on-Don in the process.
The rebellion was brought to an end following negotiations and the agreement that the mercenary leader would go to Belarus with his forces. However, conflicting reports suggested that he had at least left Belarus shortly afterward.

Prior to that, Prigozhin had been a key ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, having once served as his private caterer. He used his position to launch numerous businesses, including the Wagner Group.
His open challenge to the Kremlin and Putin’s rule was one of the greatest since Putin first came to power over 20 years ago.

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