Prigozhin’s jet crashes: fate remains mysterious

MOSCOW – We only saw Yevgeny Prigozhin two days ago in a video message probably recorded in Africa . He stated that the Wagner company would continue to carry out the tasks “that were assigned to it”.

But exactly two months after the failed march of justice on Moscow , he died. At 18.22 Moscow time his private jet The Embraer Legacy 600 with number RA-02795 flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg crashed in the Tver region, near the village of Kuzhenkino, three hundred kilometers north-west of the capital.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led the failed mutiny against Vladimir Putin a month ago, was on the plane that crashed in western Russia yesterday, according to releases from Russian aviation safety authorities. According to official sources, ten people were traveling on board the jet, seven passengers – including Yevgeny Prigozhin and his right-hand man, Dmitry Utkin – and three crew members. The private plane crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino. Russian emergency services said the bodies of all ten people aboard the jet had been recovered. Police have cordoned off the area around the crash site and the Russian aviation authority has formed a special commission to investigate. Yevgeny Prigozhin had led a mutiny in Moscow on July 24, 

The last time he appeared in a video, Prigozhin claimed to be in Africa – not explaining where -, where Wagner, officially founded in 2014 and which has actively participated in the Russian campaign in Ukraine, has strong interests. The mercenaries of the group, after the revolt immediately aborted, were transferred to Belarus – effectively a satellite country of Moscow – and, according to news not yet officially confirmed, the first defections in the ranks of the private army are already being recorded. Analysts are now wondering about the future of the militia which has lost both its founder and Utkin, considered the military strategist of the Wagner group. Dmitry Utkin is said to have served in the GRU – Russian military intelligence – until 2013 before joining the Slavic Corps in Syria during the civil war. The militia allegedly took the denomination of Wagner from Utkin, who used it as a nom de guerre. Utkin had previously been rumored to be involved in Wagner’s operations in Ukraine in 2014, in Crimea and Donbass.

He had been accused of human rights violations and faced – like other Wagner associates – sanctions adopted by Western countries. The private jet that crashed in Russia was a Brazilian-made Embraer Legacy 600. The model, which entered service in 2002, has so far produced nearly 300 aircraft. According to the International Aviation HQ website, the model has an excellent safety record, with only one accident in more than 20 years of service. The only accident, which occurred in 2006, during a transfer flight from the factory in Brazil to the United States, after an investigation was attributed to human error and not to a breakdown. Production of the Embraer Legacy 600 was discontinued in 2020.

The executive jet carrying Prigozhin had shown no signs of trouble until a sudden drop in power in the last 30 seconds of the flight, according to tracking data. Ian Petchenik, who works for flightracker Flightradar24, interviewed by Reuters news agency, said the Embraer Legacy 600 made a “sudden vertical downwards”. Within about 30 seconds, the plane plummeted more than 8,000 feet from its cruising altitude of 28,000. “Whatever happened, it happened quickly,” Petchenik said. The video shared on social media appears to show the plane falling from the sky followed by a trail of smoke.

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