Moscow, Oct 5 (EFE).- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the plane that crashed in August with the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was not shot down, but that grenade fragments found on the bodies of the passengers suggest that someone inside the plane was responsible for the tragedy.
“Fragments of hand grenades were found on the bodies of those who died in the air disaster. There were no external factors, this fact has already been confirmed, the result of the analyses carried out by the Russian Investigative Committee,” Putin said during a speech at the Valdai Debate Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Prigozhin was the head of the private military company Wagner Group and a close ally of Putin until his short-lived rebellion in June 2023.
Two months later, the Embraer plane in which he was traveling with nine other passengers, some of them high-ranking Wagner members, crashed in the Tver region on August 23 while en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
The day after the incident, Putin described the event as an “air disaster,” alluded to Prigozhin’s “mistakes,” referring to the failed armed rebellion, and promised that the investigation would go “all the way” to shed light on what happened.
In his remarks on Thursday, Putin, who has been accused by Wagner members, the opposition and Western politicians of being responsible for the incident, regretted that specialists had not carried out medical examinations for alcohol and drugs “in the blood of the deceased.”
The Kremlin chief added that the Federal Security Service found “10 billion rubles” ($100 million) and “also 5 kilograms of cocaine” in Wagner’s St. Petersburg offices.
Wagnerites join the Russian army
Putin noted that several thousand former Wagnerites have already signed contracts with the armed forces, something Prigozhin had always refused to do.
“They want to. And if they want to, it means that they will take part in military actions,” he said.
The Russian president also explained that by law there are no private military companies in Russia and that this name was given by the press to Wagner, but that it received state funding.
Putin had recently met in the Kremlin with Wagner’s former commander, Andrei Troshev, to discuss the creation of “volunteer units” in the Defense Ministry.
No international investigation
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov ruled out the possibility of the involvement of foreign agencies in the investigation into the crash.
And has categorically denied that the head of the Kremlin gave the order to eliminate the head of the Wagner Group, whose functions would now be performed by other private companies attached to the Ministry of Defense and the National Guard.
According to the Russian press, the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee, which investigates incidents and accidents in the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States, will not investigate this event according to international standards.
Meanwhile, the manufacturer of the crashed plane, Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica (EMBRAER), and the Brazilian Center for Investigation and Prevention of Aircraft Accidents (Cenipa) have expressed their willingness to participate in the investigation of the accident.
n mid-September, the Russian government dismissed Alexandr Neradko, the head of Rosaviatsia, the civil aviation agency, whose office confirmed the accident of Prigozhin’s private Embraer jet.EFE