Wagner boss Prigozhin confirmed dead after genetic tests of plane crash victims

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the firebrand head of the mutinous mercenary group Wagner, died after a plane crashed in Russia, state investigators said.

The Investigative Committee of Russia said on Telegram today it has completed forensic tests on the 10 dead passengers.

‘As part of the investigation of the plane crash in the Tver region, molecular genetic examinations have been completed,’ the committee’s spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko said.

‘Based on their results, the identities of all 10 dead have been established, they correspond to the list stated in the flight sheet.’

Russia’s aviation authority said Wednesday that Prigozhin’s name was on a passenger manifest for a flight that plummeted earlier evening.

Who was aboard the doomed flight?

According to the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, those on board included:

Yevgeny Prigozhin

Dmitry Utkin, the Wagner head’s right-hand man

Valeriy Chekalov, Wagner’s logistics mastermind

Yevgeny Makaryan, a Wagner commander and former fighter

Sergey Propustin, once pictured with Prigozhin

Alexander Totmin, a Wagner mercenary

Nikolai Matuseev, reportedly a Wagner member

Aleksei Levshin, the senior pilot

Rustam Karimov, the co-pilot

Kristina Raspopova, the flight attendant.

The aircraft left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport at about 6pm local time, bound for St. Petersburg.

But it crashed about 100 miles to the northeast, just by the city of Tver.

An unconfirmed video shared by RIA Novosti purported to show the plane, an Embraer Legacy 600 business jet that matched one ridden by Prigozhin, tumbling from the sky as smoke spewed.

Local news outlets said 10 bodies were recovered from the crash site, including three crew members and seven riders.

‘An investigation of the Embraer plane crash that happened in the Tver Region this evening was initiated,’ the Federal Agency for Air Transport of Russia said in a statement at the time, the Tass reported.

‘According to the passenger list, first and last name of Yevgeny Prigozhin was included in this list.’

This is the first official confirmation of Prigozhin’s demise since initial reports set off a wave of frenzied speculation over whether the renegade leader had been on the plane at all, let alone died.

It came only two months after the tycoon launched one of the most dramatic challenges to Vladimir Putin’s decades-long leadership.

Prigozhin, long thought of as a key ally of the president who enjoyed lucrative government contracts, had spent much of the Russia-Ukraine war rallying against the Kremlin’s military top brass.

His months of fiery tough talk across countless Telegram posts eventually curdled into a full-on coup on June 24.

Wagner fighters seized Rostov-on-Don, about 60 miles from the Ukrainian border, and beelined towards the capital.

Only an abruptly brokered deal by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko pulled the brakes on Prigozhin’s short-lived rebellion, agreeing to drop any charges and see Wagner leave for Belarus.

What happened after remains unclear. Photographs, videos and rumours pinpoint Prigozhin in Belarus, Russia and somewhere in Africa over the next two months.

Some Western officials and Russian insiders have suggested the crash could be the result of an explosion on board, one organised by the Kremlin in retaliation to the mutiny.

The Kremlin on Friday, however, denied such accusations as ‘absolute lies’.

Prigozhin, 62, got his start selling hot dogs with his mother, Vilotta. Born in 1961 in St Petersburg – Putin’s own hometown – Prigozhin enjoyed stints in jail for robbery before setting up Concord Catering.

The company bagged a raft of bankable government contracts over the years, including supplying food for officials and schools alike.

Wagner’s start remains murky at best. While reports of the private paramilitary group’s rampages surfaced in 2014 not long after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the group is thought to have formed as early as 2005.

Dmity Utkin, Prigozhin’s right-hand man known for his Nazi SS tattoos who also died on the plane, was long thought to have been the group’s founder. Prigozhin, meanwhile, its deep deep-pocketed owner.

While Wagner fighters tend to be associated with Putin’s heavy-handed regime, they can be hired by any government across the world. Soldiers have been seen in wars across the Middle East and Africa as well as Ukraine.

But Prigozhin didn’t just specialise in food and violence. His St Petersburg-basedInternet Research Agency (or ‘troll factory’, as one journalist put it) tried to sway the 2016 US presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour, American intelligence officials found.

Speaking after the crash but before Russian authorities confirmed Prigozhin had died, Putin spoke of Prigozhin in the past tense.

The Russian president said he had met the former caterer in the 1990s.

‘This was a person with a complicated fate,’ Putin said in televised remarks.

‘He made some serious mistakes in life, but he also achieved necessary results.’

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