New clues point to bomb on board Yevgeny Prigozhin planeAugust 26, 2023
New clues point to bomb on board Yevgeny Prigozhin plane: Jet owners say no repairs were carried out despite stewardess revealing last-minute ‘maintenance’ – as video emerges of ‘security breach on day of the crash’
- Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said to have died in a plane crash near Moscow
- Fresh clues suggest that a bomb was planted onboard private jet before crash
Fresh clues in the mystery surrounding the horrific plane crash believed to have killed Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin have suggested that a bomb was planted onboard the private jet.
The owners of the aircraft, Brazilian company Embraer, revealed there have been no repairs carried out on the plane since 2019 because of international sanctions that have blocked Western manufacturers from providing parts or support for planes operated in Russia.
But this contradicts the testimony of a stewardess, one of the 10 people on board the stricken plane, who told relatives prior to the aircraft’s takeoff from Moscow’s Sheremetevo airport that the flight had been delayed due to a technical inspection – adding to suspicions the plane may have been tampered with.
And adding to the speculation further, video has emerged which appears to show people posing as ‘potential buyers’ onboard what is said to be Prigozhin’s private jet in the hours before takeoff in a ‘serious security breach’.
They were registered as passengers of the private jet in order to be let through by airport security and then claimed they were ‘potential buyers’, according to VChK-OGPU Telegram channel, which is considered to have close ties to Russian security forces.
The potential buyers – including a woman with a handbag – reportedly had access to the plane for around one hour from 9.30am to 10.30am on Wednesday morning just hours before it crashed in the early evening.
Prigozhin has been listed as one of the 10 passengers onboard the doomed plane that crashed into a ball of flames, killing all on board, by Russian authorities. And last night, Vladimir Putin broke his nearly 24 hours of silence to ‘express his condolences’ to those who died, describing Prigozhin as a man ‘who made serious mistakes in life’.
Fresh clues in the mystery surrounding the horrific plane crash believed to have killed Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin have suggested that a bomb was planted onboard the private jet. Pictured: The burning wreckage of the plane on Wednesday
Video has emerged which appears to show people posing as ‘potential buyers’ onboard what is said to be Prigozhin’s private jet in the hours before takeoff in a ‘serious security breach’
Stewardess Kristina Raspopova, who perished in the crash, had later reportedly told her family the plane had been delayed from taking off due to a technical inspection and undisclosed repairs.
Prigozhin has been listed as one of the 10 passengers onboard the doomed plane that crashed into a ball of flames, killing all on board, by Russian authorities
Emergency specialists carry a body bag near wreckages of the private jet linked to Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin at the crash site in the Tver region, Russia, on August 24
It comes as a preliminary US intelligence assessment found the crash was caused by an intentional explosion, but the Pentagon says there is no evidence so far which points to a surface-to-air defence missile.
Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, offered no further details or evidence as he made his remarks at a Pentagon news conference.
Western officials have said Prigozhin was ‘very likely’ targeted, pointing towards a bomb concealed on board or intentional sabotage of the jet, although Ryder refused to comment on whether the incident was an assassination plot.
And Russian outlet Baza, publishing schematics of the plane, pointed to a service compartment near the bathroom in the tail section of the aircraft behind the wings represented an ideal place to conceal a bomb.
It contended the theories that Prigozhin’s Embraer Legacy 600 jet was shot down by an air defence missile are likely false, pointing out there were no visible rocket contrails or exhaust plumes in the skies around the crash site.
And eyewitnesses from the town of Kuzhenkino close to the location of the crash said they saw the jet explode in the sky before tumbling to the earth, but did not report any missile strike.
It comes as it emerged that a major security breach occurred at the airport in the hours before the crash involving people posing as potential buyers, according to Russian Telegram reports.
The potential buyers, who had reportedly claimed to be involved in a £4.29 million deal, are said to have arrived at the airport in a Mercedes and went through the metal detectors inside.
‘The technician only had a phone with him, and the woman had a handbag. Having examined the outside and inside the plane [for around an hour], they calmly left the aircraft. Soon Prigozhin, Utkin and others entered the plane. There was an explosion in the air,’ VChK-OGPU Telegram channel reported.
It comes as stewardess Kristina Raspopova, who perished in the crash, had later reportedly told her family the plane had been delayed from taking off due to a technical inspection and undisclosed repairs.
But Embraer, the company that manufacturers the Legacy 600 aircraft that Prigozhin reportedly perished in, said it had not carried out any repairs on the plane due to international sanctions imposed on Russia.
Meanwhile, it emerged that Prigozhin’s body was reportedly identified by a partially missing finger after being pulled from wreckage of a plane which crashed in the Tver region of Russia, it was claimed last night, with reports suggesting a ‘bomb’ onboard was to blame.
Prigozhin received the injury to his left hand while serving time in a penal colony, the Russian Telegram channel VChK-OGPU said.
It added a senior Wagner commander has identified the body from the injury, as well as identifying his second-in-command Dmitry Utkin from his tattoos.
It is still unclear whether Prigozhin and several of his lieutenants have been killed, and whether it was to avenge a mutiny that challenged President Putin’s authority.
Prigozhin lost part of a finger on his left hand while serving time in a Russian penal colony
Vladimir Putin has finally broken his silence on a fatal plane crash believed to have killed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his co-founder Dmirty Utkin
A Russian serviceman inspects a part of a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia
An anonymous US official said it was ‘very likely’ that Prigozhin had been targeted.
It came as two Russian media outlets with security sources inside the Kremlin claimed that possibly one or two bombs had been planted aboard the aircraft.
In unverified reports, it was claimed that the bombs had been placed at the rear of an aircraft near the toilet.
This was fueled by revelations from stewardess Kristina Raspopova, 39, who posted on social media before takeoff that her flight had been delayed due to last minute ‘repairs’. It is possible a bomb was stashed on board during this time, although this is unconfirmed.
Details of the US assessment surfaced as Putin expressed his condolences to the families of those who were reported to be onboard the jet and referred to ‘serious mistakes’.
The Telegram channel reported: ‘The body of Yevgeny Prigozhin was officially identified in the morgue, he was identified by one of the commanders of the PMC Wagner. The main sign was the absence of a finger.’
The founder of the Wagner military company and six other passengers were on a private jet that crashed on Wednesday soon after taking off from Moscow with a crew of three, according to Russia’s civil aviation authority.
Rescuers found 10 bodies, and Russian media cited anonymous sources in Wagner who said Prigozhin was dead. But there has been no official confirmation amid claims he may have been travelling in a second plane, which was also in the area at the time.
If the deaths are confirmed, the crash would be the most serious blow the group has ever suffered to its leadership.
The passenger manifest included Prigozhin and his second-in-command who baptised the group with his nom de guerre, as well as Wagner’s logistics chief, a fighter wounded by US air strikes in Syria and at least one possible bodyguard.
It was not clear why several high-ranking members of Wagner, including top leaders who are normally exceedingly careful about their security, were on the same flight. The purpose of their joint trip to St Petersburg was unknown.
People light candles and bring flowers to an informal memorial next to the former ‘PMC Wagner Centre’ in St. Petersburg
A separate memorial was launched in Moscow on Thursday after Wednesday’s crash
Russian servicemen guard a road near to the site of the crash, 60 miles north of Mosco, on Thursday
Police officers block a road near the site of crash of a private jet linked to Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in the Tver region on Wednesday night
Wagner group badges were among the items left at an informal memorial outside the former Wagner Centre on Wednesday night
In Moscow, a makeshift memorial has been made to the Wagner mercenary chief by mourners
The plane, which had Prigozhin named as a passenger on its flight list, was later reported to be engulfed in fire, as images on social media claimed to show the wreckage
Images shared online purported to show the jet, believed to be carrying the Russian chief, falling to the ground as it crashed in the Tver region in Russia
It was claimed a video showed the plane flying in the Tver region before crashing towards the ground (right)
A man lights a candle at an informal memorial next to the former Wagner Centre in St Petersburg, which has been scattered with dozens of flowers
Prigozhin was once considered a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was known by the nickname ‘Putin’s chef’. Pictured: Prigozhin serving food to Putin in 2011
A Telegram channel with links to Wagner announced Prigozhin’s death on Friday evening
Wagner deputy and co-founder Dmitry Utkin is also claimed to have been killed in the crash
At Wagner’s former headquarters in St Petersburg a makeshift memorial emerged on Wednesday night as devastated Russians laid symbols associated with Wagner, bunches of flowers and candles.
Who do flight records show was onboard doomed plane?
- Yevgeny Prigozhin: chief financier, co-founder and frontman of Wagner Group
- Dmitry Utkin: Wagner co-founder, former special forces officer and suspected neo-Nazi
- Valeriy Chekalov: Close confidant of Prigozhin and head of logistics for Wagner. Tasked with negotiating and securing contracts in Russia and abroad. Sanctioned by US for involvement with Wagner.
- Sergey Propustin: Wagner fighter with combat experience in the second Chechen war
- Yevgeny Makaryan: A former police officer who joined Wagner to participate in Russia’s intervention in Syria
- Alexander Totmin: Wagner fighter
- Nikolay Matuseev: Wagner fighter
Plus crew members:
- Aleksei Levshin, commander
- Rustam Karimov, co-pilot
- Kristina Raspopova, flight attendant
Putin finally broke his silence on the crash on Thursday, expressing condolences to the families of those who were aboard the jet, including Prigozhin. He had been at a WW2 memorial concert at the time of the crash.
He said the passengers had ‘made a significant contribution’ to the fighting in Ukraine.
These passengers included Valery Chekalov, who was Wagner’s logistics mastermind, in charge of managing mercenaries and securing weapons, and Yevgeny Makaryan, who was wounded while fighting with Wagner in Syria.
‘We remember this, we know, and we will not forget,’ the president said in a televised interview with the Russian-installed leader of Ukraine’s partially occupied Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin.
But the eerie television address continued with the Russian president saying Prigozhin had ‘made serious mistakes’.
Throughout the chilling tribute, he alluded to Wagner’s failed military coup in June – ominously stating that Prigozhin ‘was a person with a difficult fate’.
The despot went on to add that his former-chef-turned-number-one-enemy was a ‘talented businessman’ and that the Kremlin would be launching a ‘preliminary investigation’ into the tragedy. Putin fell short of officially confirming Prigozhin’s death.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated today the country was in no way involved in the crash before cryptically adding, ‘everyone understands who is involved’ – thought to be a reference to Putin.
Police, meanwhile, cordoned off the field where the plane went down in Kuzhenkino, about 185 miles north-west of Moscow, as investigators studied its wreckage.
Vehicles took away the bodies. Several Russian social media channels reported that the bodies were burned or disfigured beyond recognition and would need to be identified by DNA.
Mr Prigozhin’s supporters claimed on pro-Wagner messaging app channels that the plane was deliberately downed, including suggesting it could have been hit by a missile or targeted by a bomb on board.
Wagner fighter cries at a memorial to Prigozhin in Novosibirsk
People lay carnations at a memorial as they pay tribute to Yevgeny Prigozhin
People carry a body bag away from the wreckage of a crashed private jet, near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region
The Russian Investigative Committee released a photo of the alleged crash site on Wednesday after the blaze had been extinguished
Flightradar data appeared to show a second plane circling over St Petersburg
The Wagner headquarters in St Petersburg appeared to be lit up in the shape of a cross
Prigozhin’s public appearances in two months since his failed coup against Putin’s regime
JUNE 23 Prigozhin announces a ‘march for justice’ to stop the ‘evil being spread by the country’s military leadership’.
In a series of audio recordings posted on the Telegram messaging service, he announces his 25,000 soldiers will march on Moscow, adding: ‘Wagner’s commanders have come to a decision. This is not a military coup. It is a march for justice.’
JUNE 24 Prigozhin says his fighters have captured the army headquarters in Rostov-on-Don ‘without firing a single shot’ and claims to have the support of locals.
But that evening, he suddenly announces a withdrawal, saying on Telegram: ‘Now is the moment when blood could be spilled. We are turning our convoy around.’ He then disappears from public view for nearly three days.
JUNE 27 Prigozhin breaks his silence to deny his march was a coup, saying: ‘We didn’t have the goal of toppling the existing regime, which is lawfully elected, as we have said many times.’
JULY 3 Prigozhin calls on the Russian public to stand up for Wagner paramilitaries as the group continues to recruit troops for the war in Ukraine.
JULY 6 Selfies of Prigozhin in various wigs and disguises are published by Russia’s security services to weaken his fearsome public image.
JULY 14 A photo of Prigozhin sitting in his underpants on an unmade bed in a tent is leaked online. Data attached to the photo shows it was taken on June 12 – 11 days before he announced the armed rebellion.
JULY 19 In a video filmed in a field, Prigozhin says: ‘What’s happening on the front is a disgrace that we don’t need to take part in. So a decision has been taken that we will be here in Belarus for some time,’ before ‘heading off for Africa’.
JULY 27 Prigozhin is photographed on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg, shaking hands with Freddy Mapouka, chief of protocol for the Central African Republic’s president
Sergei Mironov, the leader of the pro-Kremlin Fair Russia party and former chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament suggested on his Telegram channel that Prigozhin had been deliberately killed.
‘Prigozhin messed with too many people in Russia, Ukraine and the West,’ Mironov wrote. It now seems that at some point his number of enemies reached a critical point.’
Pro-Wagner Telegram channels and social media posts also warned Putin to ‘get ready’ for a second march on Moscow if it was found Prigozhin had been taken out by Russian ‘traitors’.
Russian authorities have said the cause of the crash is under investigation.
Kuzhenkino resident Anastasia Bukharova, 27, said she was walking with her children on Wednesday when she saw the jet, ‘and then – boom! – it exploded in the sky and began to fall down.’
She said she was scared it would hit houses in the village and ran with the children, but it ended up crashing into a field.
‘Something sort of was torn from it in the air, and it began to go down and down,’ she added.
Prigozhin was long outspoken and critical of how Russian generals were waging the war in Ukraine, where his mercenaries were some of the fiercest fighters for the Kremlin.
The Russian warlord had previously threatened to withdraw troops from frontline positions if he was not given the supplies he demanded from Putin.
The Wagner Group saw some of the worst fighting in the months leading up to June, with numbers so depleted that Prigozhin recruited thousands of dangerous convicted criminals straight out of prison to join his forces.
In late June, Prigozhin launched an unprecedented verbal attack on President Putin and his allies before marching 25,000 troops towards Moscow.
They then drove to within about 125 miles of Moscow and downed several military aircraft, killing more than a dozen Russian pilots. Putin first denounced the rebellion – the most serious challenge to his 23-year rule – as ‘treason’ and a ‘stab in the back’.
The coup came to an end with a deal brokered by the Belarussian President which granted an amnesty for Prigozhin and his mercenaries and permission for them to move to Belarus.
The Institute for the Study of War said last night that Russian authorities likely moved against Prigozhin as ‘the final step to eliminate Wagner as an independent organisation.’
Videos shared by the pro-Wagner Telegram channel Grey Zone showed a plane dropping like a stone from a large cloud of smoke, twisting wildly as it fell, one of its wings apparently missing.
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