Five days after the crash that altered the Russian political and security landscape, officials in Moscow finally confirmed Sunday that Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and other top officials of the powerful and feared mercenary force were aboard the doomed plane.
The Tass news service reported that the Russian Investigative Committee had finished its genetic and forensic identification of the seven passengers and three crew members of the Embraer private jet, and that the 62-year-old Mr. Prigozhin, a onetime confidant of President Vladimir Putin who staged an abortive mutiny in June, was indeed among the victims.
“As part of the investigation into the plane crash in the Tver Region, molecular genetic examinations have been completed,” the agency said in its statement. “According to their results, the identities of all 10 victims have been established. They correspond to the list stated in the flight manifest.”
Also confirmed as dead from the passenger list were Dmitry Utkin, the commando who first organized the Wagner Group and recruited Mr. Prigozhin to its ranks, and Valery Chekalov, considered the force’s logistics specialist.
With rumors and speculation flying around the globe, the statement offered no insight into why the plane suddenly went down in clear weather Wednesday while flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
The Tass report said that a criminal investigation has been launched looking into “potential violations of flight safety rules.”
In addition to building a broad-ranging business empire with deep links to Mr. Putin’s Kremlin, Mr. Prigozhin molded the Wagner Group into a formidable private army, with significant deployments in such hot spots as sub-Saharan Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
Mr. Putin has offered only muted comments on the crash and Mr. Prigozhin’s legacy, and the future of Wagner Group operations remains deeply uncertain.
An early U.S. intelligence assessment has reportedly concluded that an intentional explosion — likely a bomb planted aboard — caused the plane to go down, but the Kremlin has angrily denied that Mr. Putin or the government had any role in the crash.
Mr. Prigozhin had feuded bitterly and publicly in recent months with top Russian defense officials over the conduct of the troubled invasion of Ukraine, where Wagner Group forces were taking a lead part in some of the deadliest battles in the 18-month war.
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