In a tragic incident, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a prominent figure in the realm of Russian mercenaries and leader of the Wagner mercenary group, was listed among the passengers of a jet that crashed in Russia, resulting in the loss of all 10 lives on board, as confirmed by Russia’s civil aviation authority.
Controversy Surrounds Crash: Claims of Russian Air Defense Involvement
The circumstances surrounding the crash have triggered a wave of speculation and controversy. Social media accounts affiliated with the Wagner mercenary group have asserted that Prigozhin’s private plane was targeted and brought down by Russian air defenses. The Grey Zone Telegram channel reported that Prigozhin’s demise was attributed to “actions of traitors to Russia,” fuelling intrigue around the incident.
The Unsettling Story of Yevgeny Prigozhin
Yevgeny Prigozhin was no stranger to controversy and intrigue. He notably led a failed uprising against Russia’s armed forces in June, a move that garnered international attention. However, skepticism looms over the authenticity of the mutiny, with experts both in Russia and abroad suggesting that the event might have been orchestrated for political ends. Prigozhin’s purported “justice march” on Moscow came to an abrupt halt, allegedly due to direct orders from President Vladimir Putin.
A Fateful Day: Crash and Dismissal
The crash unfolded in the Tver region, situated to the northwest of Moscow, coinciding with the reported dismissal of senior Russian general Sergei Surovikin from his role as air force chief. Gen Surovikin, known to have had close ties with Prigozhin, had been notably absent from public view since the mutiny.
Details of the Crash and Passengers
The aircraft involved in the crash was an Embraer-135 (EBM-135BJ) that was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The jet carried seven passengers and three crew members. Among those listed on the passenger manifest was Dmitry Utkin, a senior commander of the Wagner mercenary group who founded the organization in 2014. The plane is reported to have crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino, roughly midway between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Vapour Trails, Bangs, and Fire
Eyewitness accounts shared by Grey Zone and local residents revealed the presence of two vapour trails and the sound of two bangs preceding the crash. According to Tass news agency, the aircraft caught fire upon impact with the ground. The crash occurred mere minutes after takeoff.
Investigation and Intrigue
An official investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the crash, while emergency services continue to scour the scene. In the midst of the unfolding tragedy, reports emerged that another business jet belonging to Prigozhin had safely landed in the Moscow region.
Prigozhin’s Impact and Legacy
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s legacy is marked by his leadership role in the Wagner mercenary group, comprising approximately 25,000 fighters. The group’s activities have spanned regions including Ukraine, Syria, and west Africa, and have been marred by allegations of brutality. Prigozhin’s attempted mutiny against Russian military forces in June raised questions about his motivations and the complexities of his relationship with the Russian establishment.
Uncertain End: A Political Chessboard
Prigozhin’s enigmatic journey and sudden demise underscore the intricate nature of political maneuvering and intrigue within Russia. His challenge to Russia’s defense establishment was met with President Putin’s vehement condemnation. Despite a deal that ostensibly granted him safety, the fate that befell Prigozhin serves as a somber reminder of the risks inherent in political power struggles.
The Unanswered Question: Deliberate Targeting?
While no concrete evidence has emerged to definitively link Prigozhin’s demise to deliberate targeting, the circumstances and timing of the crash have raised eyebrows. As investigations continue, the world watches closely to discern the truth behind this tragic incident. US President Joe Biden’s measured response to the news serves as a reminder that Prigozhin’s impact and the events surrounding his death remain subjects of international attention and speculation.