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Head of Russia’s Wagner Group presumed dead in plane crash that kills 10

August 24, 2023 at 3:34 pm

A screen grab captured from a video shared online shows Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian private security company Wagner, speaking in a desert area while wearing camouflage in a video for the first time after his rebellion against the Russian administration in an unspecified location in Africa on August 21, 2023. [Wagner Account – Anadolu Agency]

Leader of Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin and commander Dmitry Utkin are thought to have been killed in a plane crash near Moscow yesterday, according to Russia’s civil aviation authority.

Prigozhin and Utkin were on the plane’s passenger list according to Moscow, which claimed that they had both been “on board”. A Telegram channel linked to the Wagner Group also confirmed this.

Wagner Group, a Russian state-funded private military company, was led by Prigozhin and used by Moscow for its operations in Libya and Syria since 2014 and in Mali and other African states.

The 62-year-old leader rebelled against Putin earlier this year in a failed coup with Putin denouncing him as a “traitor”. The coup ended after Prigozhin sought refuge in Belarus following an agreement brokered by President Alexander Lukashenko.

Analysts have questioned whether the plane crash was an accident or a means through which Putin was eradicating a rival.

Commenting on the plane crash, US President Joe Biden said: “I am not surprised […] there is not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not behind.”

The Wagner Group is sanctioned by the US due to allegations of war crimes.