Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that the plane crash that killed Wagner mercenary force leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was not a result of an external attack, but rather an internal explosion caused by hand grenades.
“The head of the Investigative Committee reported to me just the other day that fragments of hand grenades were found in the bodies of those killed in the plane crash,” Putin said speaking at the Valdai Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on October 5, 2023.
Putin also hinted that Prigozhin and his associates may have been intoxicated, painting a picture of a drunken group of men who may have killed themselves with their own weapons.
“Unfortunately, no examination was carried out for the presence of alcohol or drugs in the blood of the victims,” Putin said, adding that the searches at Wagner’s offices in St. Petersburg following the crash yielded 10 billion rubles (approximately $100 million) in cash and 5 kilograms of cocaine.
The body of Prigozhin was buried at a private ceremony less than a week after the private Embraer Legacy 600 jet carrying him and nine other people crashed north of Moscow, Russia on August 23, 2023. The tragic incident killed everyone on board, including two other top figures from the Wagner group, Prigozhin’s four bodyguards, and a crew of three.
The circumstances of the crash have fueled speculation that foul play was involved in the death of Prigozhin and his Wagner group associates, who were responsible for a failed mutiny against Moscow in June 2023.
The initial theories about the crash ranged from technical failures to external attacks, with some even speculating on a missile strike.
Early footage of the incident also showed the aircraft spiraling and tumbling down rather than an aerodynamic descent, implying that the airframe had been heavily damaged by the time it collided with the ground.
A bystander can be heard in the video saying she “heard two explosions” before the aircraft began descending.
However, Putin firmly denied any intentional attack was involved.
“There was no external impact on the plane – this is already an established fact,” he said during the Valdai Discussion Club event.