Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of Russian mercenary group Wagner, was on the passenger list of a plane that crashed north of Moscow, according to Russian state media.
The official Russian news agency TASS said the Federal Air Transport Agency has launched an investigation into the crash of an Embraer aircraft, which occurred in the Tver region north-east of Moscow on Wednesday.
“An investigation has been launched into the crash of the Embraer aircraft, which occurred tonight in the Tver region. According to the list of passengers, among them is the name and surname of Yevgeny Prigozhin,” the department noted.
The private Embraer Legacy aircraft crashed while flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg, coming down near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Tver region, according to Russian emergency services.
There were 10 people on board, including three crew members. According to preliminary information, all on board were killed, the agency said, adding that they “are conducting search operations.”
The bodies of four people have been found at the crash site, TASS reported, citing emergency services. It added that the plane “burned up” on impact after being in the air for about half-an-hour.
Flight data shows the Prigozhin-linked plane reached an altitude of some 26,000 feet, before data transmission stopped at around 6:13 p.m. local time.
The crash comes months after Prigozhin launched an abortive mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, posing an unprecedented challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority before it was suddenly called off in a deal that required Prigozhin and his fighters to relocate to Belarus.
Wagner forces were heavily involved in capturing the eastern Ukrainian cities of Soledar and Bakhmut following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Prigozhin then spent months criticizing Russian military leadership and the support it was giving his troops before he called for the armed rebellion.
This is a breaking story. More to come