Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is presumed dead following a private jet crash that killed all 10 people onboard Wednesday. In June, Prigozhin led a rebellion with the private paramilitary group against the Kremlin.
What we know about the crash: Search crews found the remains of all 10 people that were onboard the jet when it crashed, NBC News reported.
The Wall Street Journal confirmed Prigozhin died in the crash, as well as two other top Wagner commanders. Social media channels associated with the paramilitary group “asserted that the plane had been destroyed by a Russian military antiaircraft missile.”
If the crash was intentionally shot down, “it would amount to a very public execution of a man who, after years as a dedicated and trusted ally of the Kremlin, turned into the most serious threat to Putin in the Russian president’s 23 years in power,” per WSJ.
The Embraer Legacy jet “caught fire on hitting the ground” after reports that it had been in the air for less than 30 minutes. It crashed in the Tver region, north of Moscow, during a flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg, according to BBC.
“An investigation has been launched into the crash of the Embraer aircraft, which occurred tonight in the Tver region,” Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency said, per The New York Times. “According to the list of passengers, among them is the name and surname of Yevgeny Prigozhin.”
Why Prigozhin came up during the GOP presidential debate:
“Look what Putin did today, he killed Prigozhin,” Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s former governor said Wednesday night during the first Republican party presidential candidate for the 2024 election after being asked how she would respond to the war in Ukraine if she were elected.
She continued, “When I was at the U.N., the Russian ambassador suddenly died. This guy is a murderer. And you are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country.”
President Joe Biden’s administration is still investigating and does not have confirmation of their own “at this time,” a U.S. official told Politico.
Who is Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin?
Prigozhin is the leader of the private Wagner military group and led a rebellion against the Kremlin in June, which included a march on Moscow, ABC News reported.
Once the movement ended, Prigozhin was wanted for “betrayal” of President Vladimir Putin, the Deseret News reported. Ultimately, he was exiled to Belarus and was confirmed to have arrived in the country safely at the time, per The Washington Post.