Bodies and flight recorders recovered at Wagner boss Prigozhin’s jet crash site
Russia has reported the retrieval of 10 bodies and flight recorders from the crash site of a presumed jet crash, which is believed to have resulted in the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner private military group.
Investigatory authorities have informed that molecular-genetic tests are currently being conducted.
The plane went down near Moscow on Wednesday, leading to speculation about a potential bomb or missile involvement.
Earlier claims suggesting the Kremlin’s involvement in Prigozhin’s demise were refuted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson in an interview with the BBC. Yevgeny Prigozhin, once a close ally of Putin, led a failed armed uprising by his mercenaries in June.
Though President Putin labeled the rebellion as “treachery,” an agreement was subsequently reached for the Wagner fighters to either join the regular Russian army or relocate to Belarus, a Moscow-aligned country.
Nonetheless, following the insurrection, numerous observers considered Prigozhin, aged 62, to be in grave danger, arguing that the Russian president would never pardon the Wagner chief
During Friday’s conference call with journalists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC there was “lots of speculation” around the “tragic” deaths of all 10 people in Wednesday’s air crash in the Tver region, north-west of the Russian capital.
Prigozhin and his right-hand man Dmitry Utkin, as well as five other passengers and three crew members, were on board the Embraer Legacy 600 jet, according to the passenger list.
“In the West, of course, this speculation comes from a certain angle. It’s all a complete lie,” Mr Peskov went on.
“We don’t have many facts at the moment, the facts need to be clarified during the official investigation which is being carried out now,” he added.
And despite the jet’s manifest, Mr Peskov refused to be drawn on whether the Kremlin had confirmation that Prigozhin was definitely on board the downed plane.
The future of Wagner itself has also been thrown further into doubt by Prigozhin’s presumed death.
On Friday, Belarus’ leader Aleksander Lukashenko said that up to 10,000 Wagner fighters would continue to be based in the country.
However, many experts believe that Mr Lukashenko takes orders from the Kremlin.
President Putin stayed silent over the crash for almost 24 hours, before expressing condolences to all the victims’ families.
He also described Prigozhin as a “talented person” who “made serious mistakes in life”.
But from the moment the plane came down, there has been frenzied speculation about what caused the crash.
The Pentagon says it believed the Wagner chief was probably killed, while a US official told CBS News that the most likely cause of the crash was an explosion on board the plane.
President Joe Biden said on Friday that the US was still trying to “nail down” precisely what brought down the plane.