The Investigative Committee of Russia has officially confirmed the death of Evgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the private military company Wagner Group, in a plane crash that occurred earlier this week. The committee’s chief spokesperson, Svetlana Petrenko, announced on Sunday that DNA testing had been completed on the bodies of all those who were on board the aircraft. The plane, an Embraer 135BJ Legacy 600, crashed in the Tver Region while en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
Petrenko stated, “The identities of all 10 of the deceased have been established and they correspond to the flight list.” The list of passengers had already been shared by Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency and included Prigozhin, as well as several other high-ranking Wagner operatives such as Dmitry Utkin, considered to be the co-founder of the company, and Valery Chekalov, who was considered the deputy head of the group according to the United States.
In addition to the Wagner operatives, the flight crew consisting of two pilots and an air hostess were also declared dead in the crash.
Evgeny Prigozhin gained considerable attention after the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022 when his PMC became involved in the hostilities, particularly in the fighting around the Donbass stronghold of Artyomovsk, also known as Bakhmut. He openly criticized the Russian Defense Ministry and accused it of shelling his men’s field camp in late June. Prigozhin then announced a “march of justice” on Moscow in an attempt to cleanse allegedly corrupt officials. However, his mutiny was short-lived and was resolved through a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Just last week, Prigozhin released a video reportedly filmed in Africa, where he stated that the Wagner Group had reopened recruitment and was engaged in reconnaissance and search activities against terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and various other armed groups.
Following the news of the plane crash that claimed Prigozhin’s life, Russian President Vladimir Putin described him as a “talented” man with a “complicated destiny” who had made significant contributions to the fight against neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
The death of Evgeny Prigozhin has raised questions and sparked speculation given his association with Wagner Group and his alleged close ties to President Putin. The extent of his role within the PMC and his involvement in various conflicts have made him a figure of interest both domestically and internationally.
As the investigation into the plane crash continues, authorities will be looking to establish the cause of the accident and ensure that all necessary measures are taken to prevent similar tragedies in the future.