Moscow, Aug 23 (EFE).- A private plane carrying the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has crashed in central Russia, the country’s civil aviation agency said Wednesday.
All 10 people on board the plane have died, Rosaviatsia said.
“An investigation has been opened into the Embraer plane disaster that occurred this afternoon in the Tver region,” Rossaviatsia reported to local press agencies.
“According to the list of passengers, among them is the name and surname of Yevgeny Prigozhin,” the civil aviation authority added.
The Ministry for Emergency Situations confirmed that the accident took place near the village of Kuzhenkino and that three of the 10 people on board were crew members.
Eight of the bodies have been recovered from the site in Tver Oblast, where the Brazilian-made Embraer plane crashed en route between Moscow and St Petersburg.
According to the official RIA Novosti news agency, rescue services have not yet confirmed the identity of the bodies found near the town of Kuzhenkino, around 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Moscow.
DNA tests will likely be needed to identify the bodies.
Social media channels associated with the Wagner Group, a private Russian mercenary army whose troops have been heavily involved in the war in Ukraine, were speculating that Prigozhin’s plane could have been shot down by Russian anti-aircraft defense systems.
Others were saying that the plane was hit in a bomb attack or that it was shot down by an enemy drone.
A video published by the digital newspaper Gazeta.ru shows how the plane crashes near to rural houses, followed by a loud explosion.
Prigozhin, 62, led a failed mutiny against the Kremlin two months ago in which he managed to take one of the most important cities in southern Russia, Rostov-on-Don.
Following mediation by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin agreed to withdraw his mercenaries and move his base to Belarus.
After accusing him of treason, Putin met him in the Kremlin, after which Prigozhin announced the resumption of Wagner’s operations in Africa.
A video purportedly showing him on the ground in Africa was released on Monday, in which Prigozhin pledged to make Africa “more free” and “Russia even greater on every continent.”
In the wake of the news of the crash, United States president Joe Biden told reporters that “I don’t know what happened for a fact, but I’m not surprised.
“There’s not much that happens in Russia with Putin not behind, but I don’t know enough,” the US president added. EFE