MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on a private jet which crashed on Wednesday evening north of Moscow with no survivors, the Russian authorities said.
There was no confirmation that Prigozhin was physically on board and Reuters could not immediately confirm that he was on the aircraft.
“An investigation has been launched into an Embraer plane crash that occurred tonight in the Tver region. According to the passenger list, the name and surname of Yevgeny Prigozhin is among them,” Rosaviatsia, Russia’s aviation agency, was cited as saying by the state TASS news agency.
Russia’s emergency situations ministry said in a statement that the aircraft travelling from Moscow to St. Petersburg had crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Tver Region.
It said that 10 people had been on board, including three crew members. According to preliminary information, everyone on board had been killed, it said.
Prigozhin, 62, spearheaded a mutiny against Russia’s top army brass on June 23-24 which President Vladimir Putin said could have tipped Russia into civil war.
The mutiny was ended by negotiations and an apparent Kremlin deal which saw Prigozhin agree to relocate to neighbouring Belarus. But he had appeared to move freely inside Russia after the deal nonetheless.
Prigozhin, who had sought to topple Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, on Monday posted a video address which he suggested was taken in Africa.
Unconfirmed Russian media reports said that Dmitry Utkin, Prigozhin’s right-hand man, was also on board and that Prigozhin and his associates had attended a meeting with officials from the Russian Defence Ministry.
Reuters could not confirm that and there was no immediate comment from the defence ministry or the Kremlin.
Soon after the plane dropped out of the sky, a second private jet linked to Prigozhin which also appeared to be heading to St Petersburg, Prigozhin’s home base, turned back to Moscow, flight tracking data showed, and later landed.
The flight radar 24 online tracker showed that the Embraer Legacy 600 (plane number RA-02795) had dropped off the radar at 6:11 p.m. time. An unverified video clip posted to social media showed a plane resembling a private jet falling out of the sky towards the earth.
Another unverified clip showed the still burning wreckage of the plane on the ground. At least one body was visible.