SAccording to the same source, Dmitry Utkin, one of the founders of the Wagner group and a former Russian special forces officer, was also among the passengers.

“According to the airline, the following passengers were on board the Embraer plane – 135,” Rosaviatsiya said, citing the names of Prigozhin and Utkin.

A channel on the Telegram social network close to the group, Gray Zone, published that Prigozhin and Utkin died “as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia”.

Rosaviatsiya had already indicated that the name of Prigozhin was on the list of occupants of the jet and that it had initiated an investigation into the crash of the Embraer plane, which occurred in the Tver region.

Russian emergency services previously indicated they had recovered eight completely charred bodies from the disaster site, but without obtaining identities.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations confirmed that the Embraer Legacy plane crashed near the town of Kuzhenkino, when making the connection between Moscow and St. Petersburg, and that three of the ten people traveling on board the plane were crew members.

“According to preliminary data, all those on board died,” the Ministry of Emergency Situations said.

Different versions of what happened are discussed on Russian social media. Channels close to the Wagner group claim that the plane may have been shot down by Russian anti-aircraft defense, others by an attack or even by an enemy ‘drone’.

The governor of Tver, Igor Rudenia, took personal control of the investigation into what happened to the civilian plane.

Videos whose authenticity Agence France Presse was unable to confirm were broadcast on various Telegram channels, claiming to be linked to the Wagner Group and showing burning wreckage in a field or an aircraft crashing.

Flight tracking data consulted by the Associated Press confirms that a private jet registered to the Wagner Group, which Prigozhin had previously used, took off from Moscow this evening and that its signal disappeared minutes later.

The plane crashed in the Tver region, more than 100 kilometers north of the Russian capital, where there are no nearby airfields.

The leader of the mercenaries Wagner, 62 years old, fought alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine and maintained military operations for a long time in Syria and in several African countries, and two months ago he was the protagonist of a failed military rebellion against the military leaders of Moscow, in which he even took one of the most important cities in southern Russia, Rostov-on-Don.

After the mediation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin agreed to withdraw his mercenaries and transfer his base to the territory of that former Soviet republic.

After accusing him of treason, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed him to the Kremlin, after which Prigozhin announced the resumption of the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa.

Putin took part today in the Kursk border region in an official ceremony on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Kursk, one of the most important of the Second World War between the Soviet and Nazi armies.

The Orquestra Wagner Telegram channel, close to the military company, said that Prigozhin’s disappearance is “a great tragedy for the homeland” and that, “if it was a stab in the back (…) the homeland will exist, but his destiny , like that of any ‘Judas’, is not enviable”.

In a first reaction, Kiev suggested that “the spectacular elimination of Prigozhin and the commander of the Wagner Group two months after the coup attempt is a signal from Putin to Russian elites ahead of the 2024 elections”, said on X (ex-Twitter) Mikhail Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, adding that the Kremlin leader “does not forgive anyone”.

US President Joe Biden said he was not surprised.

“I still don’t know exactly what happened, but I’m not surprised. Few things happen in Russia without Putin having something to do with it”, stressed the US head of state, in statements during his vacation in Lake Tahoe , between Nevada and California.

Prigozhin appeared on Monday for the first time since the riot in a video, in which he indicated that he had returned to Africa to make Russia “even greater on all continents”.

“The Wagner Group makes Russia even greater on all continents and Africa even more free,” the leader of the mercenary group said in the recording, broadcast on Telegram channels close to the Russian militia.

[Notícia atualizada às 22h32]

Also Read: Biden not “surprised” by Prigozhin’s possible death in Russia

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