Russian authorities have not yet confirmed whether the mercenary leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, was on a private jet that crashed on Wednesday. The warlord is on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list.
“In the Tver region, near the village of Kuzhenkino, a private Embraer Legacy aircraft crashed while flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg. There were 10 people on board, including 3 crew members. According to preliminary information, all on board were killed. EMERCOM of Russia is conducting search operations,” according to Russia’s emergencies ministry.
In June, the leader of the Wagner Group rebellion cut a deal with President Vladimir Putin and said he would exile himself to neighboring Belarus. This deal was made after his fighters came within 120 miles of Moscow in a mutiny launched against the Russian military after the Wagner Group suffered from friendly fire from Russian forces. The Wagner Group was supporting Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
But the warlord was later reportedly spotted in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia.
According to reports out of Moscow this morning, eight bodies were recovered from the crash site near the village of Kuzhenkino.
Russia’s aviation authority Rosaviatsia said Prigozhin’s name was on the manifest, the state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported on social media.
Prigozhin was a close confidant of Putin until he launched the rebellion. Starting out as a hot dog seller and developing a deeply notorious reputation, he is sometimes called Prigozhin “Putin’s chef,” as he has owned restaurants and catering firms that provided meals for the Kremlin.
He is on the FBI “most wanted list” for attempting to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
The FBI claims Prigozhin oversaw an electoral interference operation by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm,” which he funded and which spread misinformation via social media.
He is accused by the FBI of a “conspiracy to defraud the US by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions” of the Federal Election Commission, the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Department of State,” according to the FBI, which offers $250,000 for information that might lead to his arrest.