Wagner Mercenary Leader Evegeny Prigozhin is Reported Killed in Private Airplane Crash

On August 23, 2023,  Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport carried out an investigation into the crash of an Embraer plane in the Tver Region where Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was reportedly one of the passengers. 

“An investigation into the Embraer plane crash that occurred in the Tver Region this evening has been launched. According to the passenger list, the first and last name of Yevgeny Prigozhin was included in this list,” the agency reported

The Embraer private jet crashed in the Tver Region close to the settlement of Kuzhenkino. Per initial reports, all 10 people on board the plane were killed. The plane’s initial route  was from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to St. Petersburg.

Prigozhin was listed as one of the passengers on the private jet though there was no official confirmation that the Wagner chief was physically on board. 

From June 23 to June 24, Prigozhin launched a mutiny against leading Russia military officials such as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. This incident caused President Vladimir Putin to proclaim that Prigozhin’s gambit could have put Russia on the verge of civil war.

The mutiny was eventually put down by negotiations and a Russian-Belarusian deal that had Prigozhin agree to go into de facto exile in Belarus. However, several reports indicated that Prigozhin was moving freely inside Russia after this deal was forged. 

Unconfirmed Russian media reports revealed that Dmitry Utkin, Prigozhin’s strongest partner, was also a passenger on the aircraft and that Prigozhin and his compatriots had participated in a meeting with officials from the Russian Defence Ministry.

There is still some speculation about the nature of Prigozhin’s alleged death. However, it seems that his mutiny likely irked Russian elites to the point that they felt compelled to take him out. 

After all, Russia is quite an authoritarian culture. Such challenges to the Russian state’s monopoly on violence were eventually going to be put down in some shape or form.

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