As reports swirl that feared Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin has been killed in a plane crash near Moscow, it has emerged the mercenary boss was declared dead in another aviation disaster in 2019 – only to reappear three days later.
Prigozhin has been listed as one of the 10 passengers onboard a doomed plane that crashed into a ball of flames, killing all on board, by Russian authorities – two months to the day after he led a short-lived munity against Moscow.
But there has still been no confirmation that Prigozhin, who has been a thorn in Vladimir Putin’s side since the Ukraine war began, has died in the plane crash.
And this is not the first time that Prigozhin has been declared dead in a plane crash only to reappear alive and well three days later – prompting some to question whether the Wagner warlord could ‘rise from the dead’ for a second time.
In October 2019, an An-27 military aircraft crashed with eight people on board in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was reported at the time that Prigozhin was onboard and among the dad – but it emerged three days later that he was alive.
And Keir Giles, from the think tank Chatham House, said it’s known that multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeny Prigozhin, as part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels and protect himself from assassination. ‘Let’s not be surprised if he pops up shortly in a new video from Africa,’ he said.
It comes as footage emerged of Prigozhin speaking with his Wagner deputy commander, who is also reportedly among the dead in the latest plane crash, saying ‘death is not the end’ and ‘we’ll all go to hell’.
Footage emerged of Prigozhin speaking with his Wagner deputy commander, who is also reportedly among the dead in the latest plane crash, saying ‘death is not the end’ and ‘we’ll all go to hell’
Prigozhin has been listed as one of the 10 passengers onboard a doomed plane that crashed into a ball of flames, killing all on board, by Russian authorities – two months to the day after he led a short-lived munity against Moscow
Emergency specialists carry a body bag near wreckages of the private jet linked to Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin at the crash site in the Tver region, Russia, on Thursday
In the chilling video, Dmitry Utkin, told Prigozhin: ‘Death is not the end, it’s just the beginning of something else,’ to which the Wagner chief replied, ‘Yes, we’ll all go to Hell, but in Hell we’ll be the best.’
While there has been no official confirmation of Prigozhin’s death, the warlord’s supporters have claimed he is dead and hailed him a hero and patriot who they said had died at the hands of unidentified people it called ‘traitors to Russia’.
But the Investigative Committee of Russia, which is looking into the crash, this morning confirmed 10 people were killed in the crash with no mention of Prigozhin.
On Thursday morning, at the scene of the crash site, Russian officials stretchered black body bags from a forested area. Parts of the plane’s tail and other fragments lay on the ground near where forensic investigators had erected a tent.
Whoever or whatever was behind the crash, Prigozhin’s death would rid Putin of someone who had mounted the most serious challenge to the Russian leader’s authority since he came to power in 1999.
Others who have opposed Putin or his interests have also died under unclear circumstances or come close to death, including outspoken political leaders and journalists. The Kremlin has always denied any state involvement in such incidents.
Prigozhin’s death would also leave the Wagner Group, which incurred Putin’s wrath in June by staging an abortive armed mutiny against the army’s top brass, leaderless and raise questions about its future operations in Africa and elsewhere.
The Brazilian Embraer Legacy 600 model of executive jet that crashed has only recorded one accident in over 20 years of service, according to website International Aviation HQ, and it was not due to mechanical failure.
Embraer said it has complied with international sanctions imposed on Russia and had not provided maintenance for the aircraft since 2019.
The plane showed no sign of a problem until a precipitous drop in its final 30 seconds, according to flight-tracking data.
A view of the site after a private jet carrying 10 people – reportedly including Prigozhin
A specialist works at the site of a crash of a private jet linked to Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in the Tver region on Thursday
Witnesses to the crash heard a loud bang before they saw the jet ‘fall from the sky’ – locals on social media are sharing these images of the aftermath, although it is unconfirmed at this stage if this is the plane
Video footage purportedly shows the aircraft falling out of the sky in the Bologovsky district in the Tver region, 60 miles north of Moscow, on Wednesday. A burning wreckage, which appears to be of a plane, was later seen in a field, with unconfirmed images showing it completely ablaze.
Prigozhin, 62, has been increasingly careful since he led a coup against Putin’s regime exactly two months ago.
After its failure, he had been warned that his life was in danger. He was known to take huge care over his security and is rumoured to have not been onboard the fateful plane, despite state TV asserting otherwise.
Sources close to him said that while the aircraft belonged to him, he usually flew on another aircraft.
Another plane, also supposedly with links to Prigozhin, was detected ‘zig-zagging’ over Moscow in the aftermath of the crash, fuelling speculation that the Wagner boss may not have been onboard after all.
Tracking data available for the crashed plane appears to show it rise to around 29,000ft, before suddenly disappearing and dropping to 0ft.
A channel linked to Wagner said the plane had been shot down by air defences, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Prigozhin has had long-established links to the Kremlin and until recently led the Wagner mercenary unit
Prigozhin spearheaded the mutiny against Russia’s top army brass on June 23 and June 24 which Putin said could have tipped Russia into civil war. Wagner fighters shot down Russian attack helicopters during the revolt, killing an unconfirmed number of pilots, infuriating the military.
He had also spent months criticising Russia’s war in Ukraine and had tried to topple Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff.
Many Russians had wondered how he was able to get away with such brazen criticism without consequence.
The mutiny was ended by an apparent Kremlin deal which saw Prigozhin agree to relocate to neighbouring Belarus. But in practice he had appeared to move freely inside Russia after the agreement which had reportedly guaranteed his personal safety.
Prigozhin posted a video address on Monday which he suggested was made in Africa. He turned up at a Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg in July.
Unconfirmed Russian media reports said that Prigozhin and his associates had attended a meeting on Wednesday with officials from the Russian Defence Ministry
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.