Russia says the plane crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner paramilitary group, may have been caused deliberately, urging the media to wait for official updates from an ongoing investigation into the deadly incident.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the investigation into the crash includes the possibility that it had been caused intentionally, signaling for the first time that Prigozhin might have been assassinated.
“It’s clear that various options are being considered, including the option, you know what we’re talking about, of, say, a deliberate cruelty. Let’s wait for the results of our Russian investigation,” Peskov said, ruling out any international involvement, and stressing that the complicated circumstances require a Russian investigation.
On August 23, Prigozhin’s private Embraer jet had left Moscow for St Petersburg when it crashed north of Moscow, killing all 10 people on board, including two other top Wagner executives, four bodyguards, and the three crew.
On August 27, Russia’s Investigative Committee officially confirmed that Prigozhin had been killed in the plane crash, after identifying all 10 bodies recovered at the site by forensic testing.
Prigozhin, whose group took part in the current war in Ukraine along with Russian troops, led a short-lived armed mutiny against the Russian military leadership in June.
The 24-hour mutiny, which managed to take control of the southern city of Rostov, eventually ended after the group’s chief agreed to turn his troops back on their path to the Russian capital, following talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko aimed at de-escalating the situation.
Prigozhin was buried privately in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday with Russian Security forces granting public access to his burial site.
At the time of the brief mutiny, Russian President Vladimir Putin branded Prigozhin a traitor, but agreed to a deal in the interest of avoiding major bloodshed, allowing Prigozhin and his loyalists to leave Russia.
Earlier, some Western media claimed that the Kremlin might have been behind Prigozhin’s plane crash, prompting Moscow to denounce this “speculation” as “a total lie.”
On Tuesday, Washington came close to declaring that Moscow was responsible for Prigozhin’s plane crash.