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Yevgeny Prigozhin: Was Wagner boss on plane that crashed near Moscow? What we know so far

Yevgeny Prigozhin: Was Wagner boss on plane that crashed near Moscow? What we know so far

A private jet with 10 people on board has crashed in Russia – with the man who led a short-lived mutiny against the country’s top brass on the passenger list.

There has been uncertainty about whether Prigozhin boarded the flight, with reports suggesting that eight bodies have been found at the crash site.

Footage from the scene – about 60 miles north of Moscow – shows flames leaping from the wreckage. Here’s what we know so far.

Fate of Wagner boss unknown – live updates

Footage from the crash site, via Russian media, has been supplied by Reuters

What has happened?

The private Embraer Legacy aircraft was travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg when it crashed, and everyone on board was killed.

Russia’s Civil Aviation Authority has said Prigozhin was on the passenger list, and later added that he was on board with Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin.

A Telegram channel affiliated with the Wagner Group has said Prigozhin was killed in the plane crash.

Seven passengers and three crew were travelling on the jet, which came down near the village of Kuzhenkino Tver.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the plane belonged to Prigozhin.

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Footage shows jet plummeting to ground

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Analysis: Russia jet crash footage

What could have caused the crash?

Our military analyst Sean Bell said plane crashes are traditionally in bad weather – and conditions were clear at the time.

Referring to footage of the incident, he added: “This aircraft looks as if it’s completely out of control – it’s spiralling down, there are vapour trails coming from it – all of which indicates it’s had some sort of catastrophic failure in the air.”

Sky’s Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay says there have been reports of a second plane behind the one that crashed that was zig-zagging through the sky.

Professor Michael Clarke said the way the plane comes down doesn’t indicate there was a bomb on board – but it does look like an aircraft that has been hit by something outside that does enough damage to wreck the controls.

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‘Putin solved problem that was Prigozhin’

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Once a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prigozhin founded Wagner – a private military company whose fighters were on the ground in Ukraine.

But in recent months, Prigozhin had been a vocal critic of Russia’s defence ministry, as well as top generals, in their handling of the invasion.

He led a short-lived mutiny against the country’s top military brass in June – and at the time, he was described by Mr Putin as a “traitor”.

The rebellion ended when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stepped in to broker a deal, with Prigozhin agreeing to relocate to Belarus.

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Wagner Group ‘in Africa’

What has happened since the rebellion?

Earlier this week, Prigozhin made a video address for the first time since the aborted mutiny.

Wearing camouflage and holding a rifle, he appeared to be in Africa – and talked about Russia making the continent “free”.

Prigozhin spoke of how Wagner was tackling terrorist groups in the region, and “making life a nightmare for ISIS and al Qaeda and other bandits”.

His mercenary group has been accused by the UN and other agencies of widespread human rights abuses.

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Putin pins medals as Prigozhin jet crashes

Where is Vladimir Putin?

Amid reports that Prigozhin is dead, Mr Putin has been attending a concert in Kursk.

The event is dedicated to the 80th anniversary of Soviet troops’ victory in the Battle of Kursk.

Soldiers joined the president on stage, with Putin pinning medals on troops.

Mr Putin has also been participating in the BRICS summit – appearing virtually alongside leaders from Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

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‘We absolutely saw this coming’

What has been the reaction to the plane crash?

Boris Bondarev, a former Russian diplomat, told Sky News that the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin would benefit Mr Putin.

And Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, said he believed such an incident involving the mercenary chief was “inevitable” following his failed revolt.

Mr Steele claims a contract had been put out on Prigozhin by members of Russia’s business community in recent weeks.

Sean Bell has said the crash could be a ploy to let the Wagner boss live peacefully in exile.

“This might have been an engineered story for Prigozhin to slip quietly away and live in exile somewhere, under a wig and with a degree of privacy,” he added.

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Biden ‘not surprised’ by jet crash

US President Joe Biden, who is on holiday in California, has been briefed.

Adrienne Watson, America’s national security spokesperson, said: “We have seen the reports. If confirmed, no one should be surprised.”

And Alicia Kearns, who chairs the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Sky News that the speed at which the Russian government confirmed Prigozhin was on the passenger list “should tell us everything we need to know”.

Reports have suggested that the plane was shot down by Russian air defence forces, and the British MP says this suggests Mr Putin is “sending a very loud message”.

Doonited Affiliated: Syndicate News Hunt

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