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On August 23, a business jet belonging to the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, crashed in the Russian Tver region. Two aircraft linked to the company flew from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
One of them crashed from a height of 9 kilometers. Its wreckage and 10 bodies were found at the crash site.
The Federal Air Transport Agency has published a list of seven passengers and three crew members, who, according to the registration information, were supposed to be on board. In addition to Prigozhin, the list includes Dmitry Utkin, chief warlord of the PMC, and Valery Chekalov, who was reportedly responsible for the transport logistics of the businessmen, as well as for the supply of ammunition to the battlefields , etc.
Various sources referring to contacts in the Wagner PMC confirmed the death of Prigozhin and Utkin. A businessman’s personal smartphone was reportedly found next to one of the bodies.
However, the bodies of those killed in the crash are not officially considered identified. As of the morning of August 24, Prigozhin’s official press service has not yet confirmed on the businessman’s death.
Shortly after the crash, sources close to the Wagner Group claimed that the jet was shot down by Russian air defense, as indicated by the alleged traces of a missile in the sky. A terrorist attack on board is also one of possible causes of the crash. Locals reported two explosions in the sky.
It should not be excluded that the special services of Ukraine, which received such a gift on the eve of the Independence Day, and their partners in NATO could be involved in the incident. Prigozhin’s assassination would be easier after he lost his state guard as a result of the mutiny two months ago.
Perhaps the incident was aimed to stage the death of Prigozhin, who had already allegedly died in another crash in 2019. There is a probability that the businessman and other leaders could have been on board the second aircraft, which safely landed at the Ostafevo business airport in Moscow. It is also suspicious that high-ranking figures flew together, since this contradicts basic security measures.
The attempt to behead the Wagner PMC out of revenge or contradictions within the Russian elites with an air defense missile strike seems too superficial and direct. The magnitude of Prigozhin’s personality and Wagner’s role for Russia will certainly generate a lot of suspicions about the incident, even after the official explanation of its causes.
Nevertheless, the crash is unlikely to have a decisive impact on the Wagner Group. As in any military campaign whose leaders are deployed in hot spots together with their fighters, there are various mechanisms to continue effective work in the event of their death.