Opposing Putin Proves Fatal: Wagner Chief Prigozhin Killed in Mysterious Plane Crash of Embraer Jet in Russia
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group who led an abortive mutiny in May 2023, was listed as a passenger on a jet that crashed north of Moscow
August 23, 2023
Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the private jet that crashed Wednesday, killing everyone aboard on its way from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Russian aviation authorities said.
The crash occurred exactly two months after Prigozhin led a mutiny that posed the greatest threat to President Vladimir Putin's nearly quarter-century rule. Putin had denounced the June rebellion as "treason" but Prigozhin appeared to escape immediate retaliation by the Kremlin under a deal brokered to end the revolt as his fighters came within 200 kilometers (124 miles) of Moscow.
"According to the Federal Air Transport Agency, an investigation has been launched into the Embraer crash," RIA Novosti reported. "Among the passengers is the name and surname of Evgeny Prigozhin."
Three pilots also died, Tass said, adding that the agency had launched an investigation into the crash. Russian officials were not immediately available for comment.
Prigozhin was a Russian oligarch, mercenary leader, and former close confidant of Russian president Vladimir Putin until he launched a rebellion in June 2023. Prigozhin was sometimes called "Putin's chef", as he owned restaurants and catering companies that provide services for the Kremlin. Once a convict in the Soviet Union, Prigozhin controlled a network of influential companies, notably the Wagner private military company, which was supported by the Russian state, as well as three companies accused of interference in the 2016 and 2018 US elections. According to a 2022 investigation by Bellingcat, The Insider, and Der Spiegel, Prigozhin's activities "are tightly integrated with Russia's Defense Ministry and its intelligence arm, the GRU.
On 23 June 2023, the Wagner Group, a Russian government-funded paramilitary and private military company, staged a rebellion after a period of increasing tensions between the Russian Ministry of Defence and the leader of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin. An agreement to settle this conflict was reached between the two sides the next day, 24 June 2023.
While Prigozhin was supportive of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he had previously publicly criticized Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, blaming them for the country's military shortcomings and accusing them of handing over "Russian territories" to Ukraine. Prigozhin portrayed the rebellion as a response to an alleged attack on his forces by the ministry, and demanded that Shoigu and Gerasimov be turned over to him. In a televised address on 24 June, Russian president Vladimir Putin denounced Wagner's actions as treason and pledged to quell the rebellion.