Russian mercenary chief who led revolt was in plane crash, state media says

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the violent Wagner mercenary group who in June led his fighters on an aborted mutinous march to Moscow, doubtless died in a jet crash in Russia on Wednesday with 9 others, Russia’s Federal Company for Air Transport stated.

Whereas the company listed Prigozhin as having been on the flight, NBC Information has not confirmed that he was. But when it proves true, it’s a sudden and stunning finish for the onetime ally of President Vladimir Putin and international warlord, whose group fought on the entrance strains in Ukraine and has been linked to violence in Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic and different international locations.

A Western official advised NBC Information that U.S. and European allies are evaluating assessments to get clarification on the crash. The stays of all 10 folks on board the Embraer Legacy jet have been discovered, emergency providers quoted by Interfax company stated.

An official passenger checklist posted on Telegram additionally included Dmitry Utkin, one other senior Wagner official, which might imply the group was successfully decapitated.

A number of hours after the crash, a Telegram channel related to the Wagner Group claimed that Prigozhin had died.

“The top of the Wagner Group, Hero of Russia, a real patriot of his Motherland, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, died on account of actions by traitors of Russia,” in accordance with a Telegram put up from the Gray Zone, an account with greater than 550,000 subscribers that has shared plenty of materials associated to Prigozhin up to now.

Russian officers weren’t instantly out there for remark, however state media reported that an official investigation had been launched.

Keir Giles, a Russia professional with the worldwide affairs suppose tank Chatham Home, urged warning over the experiences of Prigozhin’s demise.

“A number of people have modified their identify to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, as a part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels,” he advised The Related Press.

Prigozhin’s whereabouts and destiny remained a thriller since Wagner fighters captured the southern Russian metropolis of Rostov-on-Don precisely two months in the past, on June 23, and commenced to march on Moscow earlier than stopping round 120 miles south of the capital. Prigozhin and Putin alleged reached a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The settlement stipulated that Prigozhin would go into exile in Belarus and Wagner fighters — a lot of whom had been former prisoners — both signal contracts with the Russian Protection Ministry or be part of him there.

The Kremlin’s remedy of Prigozhin has nonetheless confounded many observers.

Within the months main as much as the mutiny that shook Putin’s picture as an unassailable chief, Prigozhin had mocked and criticized Russia’s high army brass for his or her incompetence all through the conflict in Ukraine, the place Wagner had turn into a necessary combating drive.

Prigozhin drew assist from hardline Russian supporters of the conflict in Ukraine who complained Putin’s invasion had not gone far sufficient and inspired wider use of drive, a piece of society that Putin is very susceptible to.

Though Putin known as Wagner’s revolt treason and a legal investigation was initially launched, it didn’t seem that Prigozhin would face fees or any actual punishment for the beautiful problem.

Nonetheless, some within the West didn’t doubt {that a} comeuppance was in retailer.

In response to a query by NBC Information’ Andrea Mitchell on the Aspen Safety Discussion board final month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated he could be “very involved” if he had been Prigozhin.

“NATO has an ‘open door’ coverage,” he stated at a fireplace chat. “Russia has an open home windows coverage, and he must be very centered on that.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company at an unknown location

An individual who seemed to be Yevgeny Prigozhin at an unknown location, in video launched on Monday. Razgruzka_Vagnera / Telegram through AFP – Getty Photographs

As soon as generally known as Putin’s “chef” for catering state occasions, Prigozhin, lengthy denied main the Wagner Group. However after his fighters led the cost towards Kyiv’s troops in Ukraine, typically at large human price, he began to embrace the general public eye, donning army fatigues and showing in movies.

Some appeared to indicate him recruiting prisoners or within the thick of the motion on the entrance line, in distinction to the city-dwelling elites he derided in a few of his Telegram posts.

In a 41-second clip printed Monday by a number of Telegram channels affiliated with Wagner, Prigozhin appeared to offer his first video handle because the mutiny that shook the Kremlin.

Wearing army fatigues and sporting a bulletproof vest that includes the Wagner emblem, an individual who seemed to be Prigozhin was filmed standing in a desert-like space. He vowed to make Africa “extra free” and “Russia even better on each continent.”

NBC Information was not in a position to confirm the video’s authenticity, in addition to when or the place it was shot.