In a shocking turn of events, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the paramilitary group Wagner, has met an untimely demise in a private plane crash. This crash comes merely two months after Prigozhin’s bold confrontation with Russian authorities, during which he openly challenged top military figures and accused them of corruption and unpatriotic behaviour. While reports inform of his death, some sources still have doubts, fueling speculation about whether his demise was genuine or if it was a strategic ruse to escape the grasp of Putin’s regime.
After an intense period of openly clashing with the upper echelons of the Russian military establishment, where he unabashedly criticized the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, faced an abrupt end on Wednesday.
Although there has been no official confirmation of his death, Prigozhin’s name has appeared on the passenger list of a private plane that tragically crashed in the Tver Oblast, north of Moscow, yesterday. However, given Prigozhin’s history of strategic manoeuvring, some sceptics have raised doubts about the authenticity of the list of passengers.
The Russian Civil Aviation Agency, Rosaviatsia, has reported that the plane was carrying a total of ten individuals, including a crew of three. Tragically, all aboard are presumed deceased. A statement from this agency indicated that among the passengers was the prominent mercenary, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin’s journey from the shadows of misinformation to the forefront began in 2022 when he stepped into an active role amid the conflict in Ukraine. He acknowledged his role as the mastermind behind the Wagner Group, and over the months, his contingent of mercenaries gained prominence on the battlefield.
However, Prigozhin also amassed adversaries within Russia. He demanded greater resources for the Russian military and found himself in direct opposition to the top ranks of the Armed Forces. In a notable incident last June, he led an armed rebellion against the Kremlin, sending tremors through Russia amidst the ongoing war with its neighbouring country.
Following the quelling of the uprising through negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, mediated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin took a step back. He agreed to exile himself and his men to Belarus, and it appeared that Wagner’s activities would shift their focus to this neighbouring ally of Russia and also Africa.
After months of silence, Prigozhin reemerged in a video this Monday, claiming to be in Africa without specifying the exact location. “We’re battling in 50-degree temperatures to elevate Russia’s influence across continents. Our fight is against the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and other rogue elements,” were his final public words.
Rosaviatsia has initiated an investigation into the crash, while the governor of Tver Oblast, Igor Rudenia, has personally taken control of the inquiry. As the investigation unfolds, some observers cannot help but wonder whether Prigozhin’s reported demise is indeed true, or if it is part of a complex stratagem to elude the grasp of Putin’s regime.
The ill-fated aircraft, an Embraer Legacy business jet, was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg when it tragically crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Bologovsky district of the northwestern Tver region.
Notable figures such as Ksenia Sobchak, a former presidential candidate, and the Telegram channel Baza have revealed the registration number of the downed aircraft, RA-01795, which belongs to Yevgeny Prigozhin.