Russia said it confirmed that the mercenary chief of the paramilitary Wagner Group was one of 10 people killed in a plane crash north of Moscow Wednesday.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the plane crash believed to have killed Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. The paramilitary leader led a rebellion in June with the Wagner Group against the Kremlin.

What the Kremlin said: Genetic testing performed on the remains of the bodies recovered at the site “conform to the manifest” for the flight, The Associated Press reported from a statement by Russian Investigative Committee spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko. Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on the flight, along with his second-in-command Dmitry Utkin and Wagner logistics mastermind Valery Chekalov.

  • “An absolute lie,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday in response to speculation Russian President Vladimir Putin planned an attack, according to NBC News.

What the Pentagon said: “Our initial assessment is that it’s likely Prigozhin was killed,” the Pentagon spokesman, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, said Thursday afternoon, per The New York Times.

Russia’s confirmation is the only information officials have that Prigozhin may have been killed in the crash.

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Putin’s first comments on Prigozhin’s death: “This was a person with a complicated fate,” Putin said, according to the Times, noting he spoke about Prigozhin in the past tense. “He made some serious mistakes in life, but he also achieved necessary results.”

  • Putin also expressed condolences to the families of the victims and said an official investigation will be conducted into what caused the crash.

Speculation about what caused the Russian plane crash continues

Preliminary intelligence reports caused U.S. officials to assume “that an explosion on board” the plane “likely brought down the aircraft Wednesday,” the Times reported

What we know about the crash: Search crews found the remains of all 10 people that were on the jet when it crashed, NBC News reported.

  • The Embraer Legacy jet “caught fire on hitting the ground” after reports that it had been in the air for less than 30 minutes. It crashed in the Tver region, north of Moscow, during a flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg, according to BBC.
  • The Wall Street Journal confirmed Prigozhin died in the crash, as well as two other top Wagner commanders. Social media channels associated with the paramilitary group “asserted that the plane had been destroyed by a Russian military antiaircraft missile.”
  • If the crash was intentionally shot down, “it would amount to a very public execution of a man who, after years as a dedicated and trusted ally of the Kremlin, turned into the most serious threat to Putin in the Russian president’s 23 years in power,” per WSJ.

What people are saying about the crash: “Russia’s reputation for deceit, cruelty and violence is so widely accepted that nobody for one second thought that this was an accident,” retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, told NBC News. “We all automatically assumed it was either a hit, or staged.”

  • “Now it has become obvious that only Putin himself is truly his own, for everyone else his rules are the same: he who refuses to unconditionally obey will be destroyed,” Putin’s former speechwriter, Abbas Gallyamov, wrote on Telegram, per NBC News. “Classical tyranny without any ideologies.”

Why Prigozhin came up during the GOP presidential debate

“Look what Putin did today, he killed Prigozhin,” Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s former governor, said Wednesday night during the first Republican Party presidential candidate debate for the 2024 election, after being asked how she would respond to the war in Ukraine if she were elected.

She continued, “When I was at the U.N., the Russian ambassador suddenly died. This guy is a murderer. And you are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country.”

President Joe Biden’s administration is still investigating and does not have confirmation of their own “at this time,” a U.S. official told Politico.

Who is Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Prigozhin is the leader of the private Wagner military group and led a rebellion against the Kremlin in June, which included a march on Moscow, ABC News reported.

Once the movement ended, Prigozhin was wanted for “betrayal” of Putin, the Deseret News reported. Ultimately, he was exiled to Belarus and was confirmed to have arrived in the country safely at the time, per The Washington Post.

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