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Russian Mercenary Leader Presumed Dead in Plane Crash

Russian Mercenary Leader Presumed Dead in Plane Crash


An Embraer Legacy 600 jet carrying ten passengers has crashed north of Moscow in Russia. The Russian Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) has stated that among the list of names on the flight manifest is Yevgeny Prigozhin — the head of Russia's Wagner Group — the mercenary force fighting alongside Russian military forces in Ukraine.




The cause of the crash of the jet is currently unknown, but it was presumed to have been shot down by Russian air defenses at approximately 18:20 Moscow time. Videos posted to social media show the wreckage of the jet falling almost vertically toward the ground just seconds after whatever caused it to crash occurred.


Photo: BAZA


To be clear, at the time of writing this article, it is still not known with certainty whether Mr. Prigozhin was onboard his (presumably) shot-down jet. Keir Giles, a Russia expert in international affairs, urges caution about reports of Yevgeny Prigozhin's death "...multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeny Prigozhin, as part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels…"


In June 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin headed a failed coup against the Russian government and top military leaders within it. According to numerous “Russia watchers” — people who specialize in watching and analyzing the development of events within Russia — Yevgeny Prigozhin has been a "...dead man walking..." ever since the coup failed. 



An Embraer Legacy 600, the same type of aircraft involved in the crash. Photo: AeroXplorer | Pablo Armenta

According to Russian news agency TASS, seven passengers and three crew were onboard the downed Embraer legacy private jet. The aircraft, which belonged to Mr. Prigozhin, was on its way between Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) and Saint Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport (LED).


The Russian city of Saint Petersburg houses the headquarters of Wagner Group, which Mr. Prigozhin headed. According to Wagner Group linked Telegram channel Grey Zone, the aircraft, which was confirmed by the BBC to have had Mr. Prigozhin onboard, was shot down intentionally by the Russian military. 




The location of the crash site which, according to the BBC, is near the Russian town of Kuzhenkino, is approximately halfway between Saint Petersburg and Moscow and lies along a common flight corridor used by both commercial and private aircraft. 


Flight tracking service Flightradar24.com aggregated flight data for approximately 12 minutes. The jet's last known location was over the Russian town of Shernevo in Tver Oblast at 18:11 local time (MST). 



Given the aircraft's speed and altitude information at its last tracked point, it is assumed that the aircraft would have been shot down six minutes later at around 18:19 or 18:20, which would have put the aircraft within 5 miles of Kuzhenkino. 


Several hours after the jet crashed, Russia's Interfax news agency reported that the remains of all 10 people onboard the plane were found and the "search operation [was] completed."


Altitude data as shown released after the crash by Flightradar24 | Image: Flightradar24.com 


The Russian government has "specially established [a] commission" to investigate the crash of Mr. Prigozhin's jet. Investigators have “begun collecting factual materials on the training of the crew, the technical condition of the aircraft, the meteorological situation on the flight route, the work of dispatch services and ground radio equipment."

Adam Schupak
Hey there! I'm Adam, a passionate avgeek absolutely obsessed with everything that flies. I'm a student glider pilot, but have the ultimate ambition of become a commercial airline pilot. Besides aviation, I'm also passionate about urban design, civil engineering, and trains.

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