Russian investigators on Sunday confirmed the death of Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in a plane crash last Wednesday, citing genetic tests indicating his identity.
Prigozhin’s name was among those of the 10 passengers on the flight manifest for the private jet, which crashed in Russia’s Tver region while travelling from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
Wagner sympathizers had held out hope that the mercenary leader, who staged an aborted coup against Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, was somehow still alive.
But in a statement published on the Telegram messaging service on Sunday, Russia’s Investigative Committee said the identities of all of the plane’s passengers had been confirmed with “molecular-genetic examinations.”
A former loyalist who was dubbed “Putin’s chef” for his role as a catering executive supplying the Kremlin, Prigozhin became embittered toward the Russian government’s handling of the war on Ukraine. After Prigozhin’s short-lived seizure of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and march on Moscow, Putin accused the Wagner boss of “treason.”
Although the Russian president extended his condolences to Prigozhin’s family on Thursday, there is widespread speculation that his government was responsible for the mercenary leader’s death. U.S. officials this week said that there was no evidence that a missile had taken down the plane, but left open the possibility that a bomb had been detonated aboard the flight.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week denied that Kyiv had any involvement in the crash.
Russia launched new air attacks on northern and central Ukraine on Sunday; at least two injuries and some damage were reported in the Kyiv region.