A plane carrying Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has crashed in Moscow's Tver region, killing all ten people on board.
"A private Embraer Legacy aircraft travelling from Moscow to Saint Petersburg crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Tver Region,” Russian authorities said in a post on Telegram.
“There were 10 people on board, including 3 crew members. According to preliminary information, all those on board died.”
Russian state TV channel Russia 24 later confirmed Prigozhin was onboard the flight.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the plane may have been shot down by a Russian air defense missile.
Russian media report that Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane was shot down by an air defense system - you can see many small holes in some parts of the fallen airplane on the video.— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) August 23, 2023
This is what the damage from air defense system shells, which contain destructive elements that could ruin… pic.twitter.com/B1judEmnCf
Russian Telegram channels also reported that Prigozhin’s deputy, Dmitry Utkin, was also aboard.
Unverified footage posted on social media showed a plane falling from the sky, while another video purports to show the flaming wreckage.
‼️Russian aviation agency: Prigozhin was on board of the plane that crashed in Tver region of Russia.— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) August 23, 2023
By preliminary information, 10 people died - Russian emergency ministry.
There is information that air defense was working in Tver region before the plane crash. pic.twitter.com/sIvSotWPHC
A senior aide to the Ukrainian presidency said the crash was a signal from the Kremlin.
"The demonstrative elimination of Prigozhin and the Wagner command two months after the coup attempt is a signal from Putin to Russia's elites ahead of the 2024 elections. 'Beware! Disloyalty equals death," Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak wrote on social media.
About Prigozhin: It is worth waiting for the fog of war to disappear... Meanwhile, it is obvious that Putin does not forgive anyone for his own bestial terror. Exactly the one that nullified him in June 2023. And he was waiting for the moment. It is also obvious that Prigozhin…— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) August 23, 2023
In June Prigozhin led a short-lived rebellion against Russia's conventional army with thousands of mercenaries taking up weapons and marching from southern Russia towards Moscow with the aim of toppling the country's military leaders.
The mutiny ended with a deal, mediated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, under which Prigozhin was expected to move to neighbouring Belarus with some of his men.
He since then refused to cede command of Wagner, but mostly stayed out of the public eye.
On Monday, video circulated showing him apparently in Africa, which he vowed to make "freer."
A a senior White House official said on Wednesday evneing that the death of Prigozhin in a plane crash would not be a surprise given his falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"We have seen the reports" of the crash, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
"If confirmed, no one should be surprised,' she said. "The disastrous war in Ukraine led to a private army marching on Moscow, and now – it would seem – to this."
The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident, in which a private aircraft plunged to the ground northwest of Moscow.
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