MOSCOW — A private jet crashed over Russia on Wednesday, killing all 10 people on board, emergency officials said. Mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the passenger list, but it wasn’t immediately clear if he was on board.
Unconfirmed media reports said the jet belonged to Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private military company.
Russia’s state news agency Tass cited emergency officials as saying that the plane carried three pilots and seven passengers. It was not clear if Prigozhin was among those on board, though Russia’s civilian aviation regulator, Rosaviatsia, said he was on the passenger list.
The Plane Crash
The plane was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg and went down in the Tver region, more than 60 miles north of the capital. Authorities are investigating.
Flight tracking data reviewed by The Associated Press shows a private jet registered to Wagner that Prigozhin had used previously took off from Moscow on Wednesday evening and its transponder signal disappeared minutes later.
The signal was lost in a rural region where there are no nearby airfields where the jet could have landed safely.
Prigozhin, whose private military force Wagner fought alongside Russia’s regular army in Ukraine, mounted a short-lived armed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership in late June. The Kremlin said he would be exiled to Belarus, and his fighters would either retire, follow him there, or join the Russian military.
Shortly after that, Wagner fighters set up camp in Belarus, but Prigozhin’s plane, according to media reports, was flying back and forth between Belarus and Russia.
This week, Prigozhin posted his first recruitment video since the mutiny, saying that Wagner is conducting reconnaissance and search activities, and “making Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa even more free.”
Also this week, Russian media reported, citing anonymous sources, that a top Russian general linked to Prigozhin — Gen. Sergei Surovikin — was dismissed from his position of the commander of Russia’s air force. Surovikin, who at one point led Russia’s operation in Ukraine, hasn’t been seen in public since the mutiny, when he recorded a video address urging Prigozhin’s forces to pull back.
As the news about the crash was breaking, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at an event commemorating the Battle of Kursk, hailing the heroes of Russia’s “the special military operation” in Ukraine.