Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group who led an aborted revolt against President Vladimir Putin earlier this summer, was listed as a passenger on a private jet that crashed north of Moscow on Wednesday, Reuters, BBC and The Associated Press reported.
Reuters and The Associated Press quoted a Russian TASS news agency report, which cited Rosaviatsia, Russia’s aviation authority. The BBC cited the Russian aviation authority directly.
“An investigation has been launched into the Embraer plane crash that occurred tonight in the Tver region. According to the passenger list, among them is the name and surname of Yevgeny Prigozhin,” Rosaviatsia said, according to those reports.
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Earlier TASS had reported that 10 people had died after a private jet crashed in Russia’s Tver region north of Moscow. The jet, en route to St. Petersburg from Moscow, was carrying seven passengers and three crew.
Unconfirmed media reports said the jet belonged to Prigozhin, AP reported. It’s not clear at this point whether Prigozhin was aboard the plane. Global News has not independently reviewed the passenger list.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly told reporters in Charlottetown, P.E.I., Wednesday the government was aware of the reports.
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“I’ll be able to have access to more information soon. I’ll be able to assess the impact, and there will be definitely important diplomatic conversations particularly with our allies in the G7 in the coming days,” she said.
On June 23, Prigozhin led a brief mutiny in which Wagner fighters took control of the southern city of Rostov-on-Donand. His forces were said to be near Moscow when his revolt was defused in a deal brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Prigozhin’s forces were key in Russia’s war in Ukraine, but the mercenary leader had made increasingly public criticisms of Moscow’s approach to the invasion. He had initially framed the revolt over an alleged attack on his troops carried out by the Russian military.
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Prigozhin has said the mutiny was not aimed at overthrowing the Russian government but as “bringing to justice” the Russian military leaders for what he called their blunders and unprofessional actions in Ukraine.
Putin, who likened the events to the turmoil which engulfed Russia in the run-up to the 1917 Russian Revolution, wanted to “wipe out” Prigozhin during the mutiny, Lukashenko said at the time, and claimed he was persuaded not to by his Belarusian ally.
Lukashenko, both an old acquaintance of Prigozhin and close ally of Putin, said that he had advised the Russian president to think “beyond our own noses” and that Prigozhin’s elimination could lead to a widespread revolt by his fighters.
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Putin, 70 and in power since 1999, is expected to run for another six-year presidential term in 2024. With Russia waging what he calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine and locked in what he describes as an existential battle with the West, Putin has said it is vital for the country to remain united.
Putin has crushed opposition to his leadership within Russia. He main political rival, Alexei Navalny – who survived an assassination attempt – had an extra 19 years added to his 11-1/2 years prison sentence on Aug. 4.
Navalny is already serving sentences on fraud and other charges that he says are bogus. His political movement has been outlawed and declared “extremist.”
— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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