Wagner Group jet crashes in Russia, founder Yevgeny Prigozhin on passenger list

Anton Volynets, Dmitriy Kandinskiy / Shutterstock.com

An Embraer Legacy 600 jet crashed and subsequently burst into flames in a field near Kuzhenkino, Tver Region, around 300 kilometers northwest of Moscow, Russia.  

Contradictory reports have emerged regarding the ownership of the ill-fated business jet registered as RA-02795. Initial information said the aircraft belonged to the Wagner Group, an infamous Russian private military company. But in its initial report on the crash, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsija) said the plane was operated by MNT-Aero, an air carrier that specializes in business transportation. 

The Embraer Legacy 600 was en route from Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) to Saint Petersburg Pulkovo Airport (LED) when the crash occurred. 

All 10 individuals on board, including three crew members and seven passengers, lost their lives in the crash. Rosaviatsija confirmed that Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and the company’s co-founder Dmitriy Utkin were among the listed passengers. 

The Wagner Group is a controversial Russian private military company (PMC) known for its secretive and shadowy operations. The group has gained notoriety for its involvement in various conflicts and destabilizing activities across the globe. Wagner Group is believed to have participated in conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Mali, among other regions, often operating with a degree of deniability from the Russian government.  

The PMC rose to prominence during its involvement in the initial months of the battle of Bakhmut, the longest and bloodiest battle of the Russian invasion of Ukraine so far. In June 2023, Wagner orchestrated a failed mutiny that had briefly taken control of military sites in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, before heading towards Moscow. The organization had since taken refuge in Belarus.  

The last public appearance of Yevgeny Prigozhin was in a video shared on August 21, 2023, in an undisclosed African location. The circumstances surrounding the video remain unclear. 

Footage shared on social media shows the aircraft spiraling downwards, followed by a smoke trail. A woman witnessing the scene can be heard saying she “heard two explosions” and then “the plane started falling.” 

Flightradar24 data revealed an intriguing detail: another aircraft of the same model, bearing registration RA-02748 and reportedly linked to the Wagner Group, was operating on the opposite route. Having taken off from Saint Petersburg, this aircraft successfully landed at Moscow Ostafyevo International Airport (OSF) just minutes after the crash. 

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