Russian Investigative Committee says DNA tests confirms that Wagner chief Evgeny Prigozhin died in private jet crash
Russia’s Investigative Committee has confirmed the death of Evgeny Prigozhin, the chief of private military company Wagner Group, in a plane crash earlier this week.
In a statement on Sunday, Svetlana Petrenko, the committee’s chief spokesperson, said that Russian investigators had completed DNA testing of the bodies of those who were on board the Embraer 135BJ Legacy 600 plane.
A view shows a portrait of Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin at a makeshift memorial near former PMC Wagner Centre in Saint Petersburg, Russia August 24, 2023. REUTERS/Anastasia Barashkova
The jet went down in Tver Region on Wednesday as it was flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
“The identities of all 10 of the deceased have been established, [and] they correspond to the flight list,” Petrenko said.
The document in question had already been shared by Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency and included Prigozhin and several other high-ranking Wagner operatives, including Dmitry Utkin – said to be the co-founder of the PMC – and Valery Chekalov, whom the US considered to be the deputy head of the group.
The flight crew – two pilots and an air-hostess – have also been proclaimed dead.
Conspiracy theories spawned immediately after his death was reported.
A 40-second clip of an old interview in which the Russian mercenary boss said he would rather be killed than lie to his country, and talked about a plane disintegrating in the sky, unleashed a flood of online theorising on Sunday about his presumed death. Exactly two months after he led a failed mutiny against army chiefs.
The Kremlin said Western suggestions he had been killed on its orders were an “absolute lie.”
The video clip posted on a Telegram account called Gray Zone has drawn hundreds of responses.
“But he knew,” a Telegram user whose name translates to “outpost” wrote in the first response.
Some posts speculated Prigozhin was alive. One said he would “soon jump out of a snuffbox and make the devils crap themselves.”
Another said it would be cool if Prigozhin and Sergey Surovikin, the former commander of Russia’s war effort, reportedly removed as head of the air force the day of the crash, “are sitting in Jamaica, drinking pina colada and taking a drag on a huge joint.”
Some posts pointed to the Kremlin, with one comment saying the crash was the handiwork of President Vladimir Putin, adding, “You have to be an amoeba not to understand this.”
Some posts blamed France, others Ukraine. One post said Ukraine had killed Prigozhin by order of US special services “and the Anglo-Saxons” and added, “it is inconvenient for us to lose such a hero,” to which someone responded with three crying-laughing emojis.
Just last week, Prigozhin released a video apparently filmed in Africa. At the time, he said that the Wagner Group had reopened recruitment, and was conducting “reconnaissance and search activities” against “ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other bandits.”
On Thursday, commenting on the Prigozhin plane crash, Putin described the businessman as a “talented” man of “complicated destiny” who made a significant contribution to the fight against neo-Nazis in Ukraine.