Wagner Group head Yevgueni Prigozhin was traveling on a private Embraer plane that crashed in central Russia on Wednesday, the civil aviation agency Rosaviatsia reported.
The Ministry of Emergencies of Russia reported that 10 people on board were killed.Eight of them have already been recovered.
(Read here: Wagner group: what is it and how does it relate to the Russian government?)
According to the civil aviation agency Rossaviatsia, the Embraer private plane crashed in Tver, Russia, on Wednesday with ten passengers, including Wagner Group chairman Yevgueni Prigozhin.
“An investigation has been opened into the Embraer plane disaster that took place in the Tver region this afternoon. According to the passenger list, there is Yevgeny Prigozhin’s name and surname,” Rossaviatsia told local agencies.
So far, Russian emergency services have recovered eight bodies from the scene of the accident. now, Rescue services have not confirmed the identity of the bodies found near the town of Kuzhenkino, according to the official RIA Novosti agency..
According to the press, the bodies are completely burned, so DNA testing will likely be required to confirm their identity. The base portal ensures that one of the passengers was beheaded in the accident.
The Ministry of Emergencies confirmed that the incident occurred near the town of Kuzhenkino and that three of the ten people traveling on the device were crew members.
“According to preliminary data, all on board died,” the Ministry of Emergencies said. said.
The plane crashed in Tver, less than 200 kilometers from Moscow, while flying between the city of Saint Petersburg and the Russian capital.
(Also: Videos of the deadly plane crash that Militia chief Wagner was going to)
Meanwhile, Tver Governor Igor Rudenia assumed personal control of the investigation into what happened to the civilian aircraft.
Prigozhin, 62, took part in the failed military rebellion against the Kremlin two months ago, when he came to take Rostov-on-Don, one of the most important cities in southern Russia.
After the mediation of Belarusian president Alexandr Lukashenko, Prigozhin agreed to withdraw his mercenaries and transfer his base to the territory of the former Soviet republic.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin accused him of treason, he received him in the Kremlin, after which Prigozhin announced the resumption of Wagner’s operations in Africa.
Prigozhin appeared on Monday for the first time since the rebellion, suggesting in the video that he had returned to Africa to make Russia “even greater on all continents.”
“The Wagner Group makes Russia bigger on all continents and makes Africa even more free,” says Prigozhin in the recording, broadcast by Telegram channels close to the Russian militia.
While the search was underway, Russian President Vladimir Putin was attending the commemoration of the Battle of Kursk during World War II and avoided any hint of the incident.
In his speech in the region on the border with Ukraine, Putin praised “those who fought with courage and determination” before soldiers mobilized for the offensive in the former Soviet republic.
“Devotion to the fatherland and loyalty to the military oath unites all participants in a special military operation,” he said, referring to the offensive launched by Russian troops at the end of February 2022.
When Putin led an uprising by Wagner’s mercenaries against Russian Chief of Staff and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the end of June, Putin branded Prigozhin a “traitor” when he captured the southern Russian barracks and marched on Moscow.
The rebellion, however, ended less than 24 hours after an agreement called for Prigozhin to go to Belarus and for Wagner’s militia to join the regular Russian army.
On Monday night, Prigozhin, 62, appeared in a video released by groups close to Wagner claiming they were in Africa.
“We are working. The temperature is above 50 degrees, just as we wanted. The Wagner group carries out an exploration mission making Russia even bigger on all continents, and Africa even more free“, he says in the video showing himself in the desert landscape.
After the unsuccessful revolt, part of Wagner’s militia took part in the formation of the Belarusian armed forces, most of which were recruited from Russian prisons.
In Ukraine, Wagner’s militia played a key role in the conquest of the city of Bakhmut (east) after one of the bloodiest battles of this conflict.
*With information from EFE and AFP