The plane that crashed and killed Putin’s enemy showed no signs of distress until seconds before its fatal collision. Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of Wagner, a mercenary group fighting for Russia in its war with Ukraine, died when his aircraft plummeted to the ground in August near the village of Kuzhenkino. He was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
Investigators say the last transmission from the Embraer Legacy 600 private jet was received only 30 seconds before the plane began to fall rapidly. Ian Petchenik of the flight-tracking site Flightradar24 said, “Whatever happened, happened quickly.” He said the craft cruised at 28,000 feet before suddenly falling into a vertical drop. Video footage of the crash shows it hurtling nose-first to the ground with smoke plumes emerging from the rear.
This aircraft model is one of the safest, with only one recorded accident in over 20 years.
Theories surrounding the death of Prigozhin have been swirling around the internet, including one that the Wagner boss has faked his death to escape the wrath of Vladimir Putin. Many are speculating that the crash was the work of the Russian President in retaliation for Prigozhin’s attempted mutiny in June.
The Wagner group, led by Prigozhin, rebelled against Russian leadership in June and took control of the city of Rostov-on-Don. Prigozhin had previously lodged complaints about the shoddy equipment provided to his troops and refused to subjugate his mercenaries to the military. He confronted the Kremlin and started a march toward the Russian capital. A physical confrontation was quelled, but observers say the episode humiliated Putin.
Furthermore, Mr. Prigozhin worked and made contracts for months after defying Mr. Putin, something the Russian leader is unlikely to allow. “It gave the signal that it was permissible to go against Putin and everything will be OK,” said former Putin speechwriter Abbas Galyamov. CIA Director William Burns said Putin is an “apostle of payback” and warned Mr. Prigozhin not to fire his food taster.