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RUSSIA JET CRASH: Mourners set up memorial near former Wagner HQ in Saint Petersburg

Late yevgeny Prigozgin

A makeshift memorial has been set up near to the former headquarters of the Wagner mercenary force in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, following the reported death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, in a plane crash on Wednesday. 

People laid flowers, lit candles and left memorabilia bearing the Wagner group’s skull logo at the memorial.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary force Wagner, was listed among 10 passengers reported killed when a private jet crashed north of Moscow.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash, which occurred exactly two months after Prigozhin led his fighters in a short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military leadership.

“There’s not much that happens in Russia that [Russian President] Putin’s not behind. But I don’t know enough to know the answer,” US President Joe Biden said in reaction to the news.

Ukraine presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said the plane crash was “a signal from Putin to Russia’s elites ahead of the 2024 elections. ‘Beware! Disloyalty equals death.’”

Questions are now being raised about the future of thousands of Wagner fighters deployed in Africa, Belarus and elsewhere.

Scene of the plane crash

Prigozhin’s death was predictable, Ukrainian official says

The death of Prigozhin was predictable following his mutiny against Russia’s military, said Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

People placed flowers and Wagner patches at the makeshift memorial in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on August 24, 2023 [Anastasia Barashkova/Reuters]People visit the memorial near the former Wagner Centre in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on August 24, 2023 [Anastasia Barashkova/Reuters]

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“Prigozhin signed his own death warrant the moment he stopped 200km from Moscow,” Podolyak told Germany’s Bild newspaper.

Podolyak said that Prigozhin’s uprising in June and the incursion of his mercenary fighters into Russian territory “really frightened” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The uprising, predictably, led to consequences because “Putin doesn’t forgive anyone for making him afraid”, Podolyak told the newspaper.

There has been no official statement from Russian government officials on Prigozhin’s fate. Video

Russian TV station claims Prigozhin’s body provisionally identified

Pro-Kremlin television station Tsargrad TV has reported, citing its own sources, that Prigozhin’s body has been provisionally identified, but that DNA analysis was still pending, according to the DPA news agency.

The crash, which remains shrouded in mystery, has ignited speculation about how Prigozhin, an outspoken critic of top Russian defence officials, met his fate – if his death is officially confirmed.

The Grey Zone Telegram channel, which is affiliated with Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary forces, suggested the plane was shot down, but offered no evidence to support its claim.

Top Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin was also reportedly on the plane.

Russia’s aviation authority Rosaviatsiya said an investigation was under way into the cause of the crash but offered no preliminary theory as to what may have happened.

Firefighters work amid aircraft wreckage at an accident scene following the crash of the private jet on which Prigozhin was reportedly a passenger, in the Tver region, Russia, on August 23, 2023 [Investigative Committee of Russia/Handout via Reuters]

 Embraer jet model said to have good safety record  – Reuters

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The Brazilian Embraer executive jet model on which Prigozhin was reportedly travelling has recorded only one accident in more than 20 years of service, according to the International Aviation HQ website.

Embraer said it was aware of a Legacy 600 plane crash in Russia, but told the Reuters news agency that it did not have further information about the case.

The Legacy 600 model entered service in 2002, according to International Aviation HQ, with almost 300 produced until production ceased in 2020.

There is only one recorded accident involving a Legacy 600, which occurred in 2006 when it crashed midair into a Gol Boeing 737-800 on its way from the Embraer factory in Brazil to the United States, International Aviation HQ said.

Despite damages to the aircraft, the Embraer pilot landed the plane and there were no deaths or injuries. A subsequent inquiry attributed blame to the crew rather than any mechanical failure, the website said.

 Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel blames Prigozhin death on ‘traitors’

A Telegram channel associated with the Wagner Group blamed “traitors” for the death of Prigozhin, the Reuters news agency reports.

“The head of the Wagner Group, a Hero of Russia, a true patriot of his Motherland – Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin died as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia,” a post in the Grey Zone channel said.

“But even in Hell, he will be the best! Glory to Russia!” Video

 Russian aviation authorities say Prigozhin killed in plane crash

A man puts flowers at a makeshift memorial near former Wagner Centre in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on August 24, 2023 [Anastasia Barashkova/Reuters]Russia’s aviation agency Rosaviatsia said Prigozhin was one of 10 people on board a plane that crashed while travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg.

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The plane crashed on Wednesday near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Tver Region, Russia’s emergency situations ministry said.

Ian Petchenik of Flightradar24 told the Reuters news agency that the aircraft made a “sudden downward vertical” at 6:19pm local time (15:19 GMT).

Within about 30 seconds, the aircraft had plummeted more than 8,000 feet from its cruising altitude of 28,000 feet.

“Whatever happened, happened quickly,” Petchenik said.




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