The plane crash that killed Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin could have been the result of intoxicated fighters letting off hand grenades, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested Thursday.
Speaking surrounded by oligarchs and apparatchiks at a meeting of the Valdai Club in the Black Sea city of Sochi, Putin insisted “there was no external influence” on the Embraer Legacy 600 jet, which came down while flying between Moscow and St. Petersburg on August 23.
“The head of the Investigative Committee reported to me just the other day that hand grenade fragments were found in the bodies of those killed in the plane crash,” the Russian president added.
In an apparent explanation for the crash, Putin said that 5 kilograms of cocaine had been found among Prigozhin’s stacks of cash, weapons and fake documents when police raided the Wagner Group’s St. Petersburg headquarters.
“Unfortunately, no tests were carried out for the presence of alcohol and drugs in the victims’ blood,” he said. “In my opinion, it would’ve been important to do that analysis.”
The body of 62-year-old Prigozhin was buried at a private ceremony less than a week after he and his lieutenants died in the plane crash. The incident sparked rampant speculation of foul play from the Kremlin, coming just two months to the day after Prigozhin launched an insurrection against Russia’s top brass and had his fighters march on Moscow.
Putin had initially described the putsch as “treason” but, speaking days after his former ally’s death, softened his tone. “He was a man with a complex fate. [Sometimes] he made mistakes; and [sometimes] he got the results he wanted — for himself and in response to my requests, for a common cause,” the Russian president said.