The Russian government has reported that it has retrieved 10 Bodies and flight recorders from crash site of jet linked to presumed death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
“Molecular-genetic tests are now being carried out,” investigators say.
The plane crashed in the vicinity of Moscow last Wednesday, sparking initial conjecture regarding the possible involvement of a bomb or missile.
Quashing any claims that the Kremlin had authorized an operation to eliminate Prigozhin, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson categorically refuted these claims when speaking to the BBC earlier.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was once a staunch ally of President Putin, notably spearheaded an unsuccessful armed insurrection by his private military contractors in June.
President Putin, at that juncture, denounced the rebellion as ‘treachery,’ but subsequent negotiations resulted in an agreement for Wagner mercenaries to either integrate into Russia’s regular armed forces or relocate to Belarus, a close ally of Moscow.
Nevertheless, following the rebellion, numerous observers characterized Prigozhin, aged 62, as a ‘dead man walking,’ contending that the Russian president would never pardon the Wagner chief.
In a conference call with journalists on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov conveyed that there existed ‘considerable speculation’ surrounding the ‘tragic’ demise of all ten individuals in the air crash that transpired on Wednesday in the Tver region, located to the northwest of the Russian capital.
According to the passenger manifest, Prigozhin and his close associate Dmitry Utkin, alongside five other passengers and three crew members, were aboard the Embraer Legacy 600 jet during the incident.
“In the West, of course, this speculation comes from a certain angle. It’s all a complete lie,” Mr Peskov went on.
“We don’t have many facts at the moment, the facts need to be clarified during the official investigation which is being carried out now,” he added.
“Despite the aircraft’s passenger manifest, Mr. Peskov declined to comment on whether the Kremlin possessed definitive confirmation of Prigozhin’s presence aboard the crashed plane.
The presumed death of Prigozhin has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the future of Wagner itself. On Friday, Belarusian leader Aleksander Lukashenko announced that up to 10,000 Wagner fighters would remain stationed in the country. However, many experts speculate that Mr. Lukashenko takes directives from the Kremlin.
President Putin maintained silence regarding the crash for nearly 24 hours before extending condolences to the families of all the victims. He also characterized Prigozhin as a ‘talented person’ who ‘made serious mistakes in life.
Since the plane’s tragic descent, intense speculation has swirled around the crash’s cause. The Pentagon indicated its belief in Prigozhin’s probable demise, with a US official informing CBS News that the most likely explanation for the crash was an onboard explosion.
President Joe Biden remarked on Friday that the US was still actively investigating the precise circumstances surrounding the plane’s downfall.