Putin silent on Prigozhin's death as claims emerge of 'repairs' on jet

The silent ‘assassin’: Putin makes no mention of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death in speech a day after mystery plane crash…as claims emerge of mystery ‘repairs’ on jet before take-off

  • Prigozhin is believed dead after a plane with his name on passenger list crashed
  • But Putin made no mention of Wagner chief’s suspected death at BRICS summit
  • Comes as stewardess reportedly told family the flight was delayed for ‘repairs’

Vladimir Putin has ignored the furore surrounding yesterday’s plane crash in which Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is believed to have been killed. 

The Russian president made no mention of the mercenary chief’s death in his address to world leaders at this week’s BRICS summit today, instead congratulating South African president Cyril Ramaphosa on the announcement that six countries – including Iran and Saudi Arabia – will join the economic alliance next year.

That address came just hours after the Kremlin chief last night soaked up adulation at a concert celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s Second World War victory at the Battle of Kursk – despite news of Prigozhin’s plane crash breaking earlier in the day. 

A clip showed the moment the despot greeted a raucous crowd who screamed ‘we are with you, we love you’, before a woman dressed in a pink jacket cried: ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], my favourite,’ and planted an enthusiastic kiss on his face.

Meanwhile, Russian media outlet rucriminal.info – a site that seeks to expose the corruption and underhand tactics utilised by Moscow’s elite – claimed that Prigozhin’s plane was delayed before takeoff for ‘technical inspections’, adding to speculation the aircraft was targeted by a bomb. 

The outlet claimed Kristina Raspopova – a stewardess aboard Prigozhin’s stricken plane – told her family prior to takeoff that the flight had been delayed due to technical problems and that a team was carrying out undisclosed repairs. 

UK intelligence sources told the earlier today BBC they had reason to suspect Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB, was behind the plane crash. 

But Prigozhin’s death has not yet been officially confirmed, leading to speculation the Wagner chief may still be alive. 

It comes as images and videos of Wagner supporters crying as they placed wreaths and flowers in tribute to their fallen leader have begun circulating on social media. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the 15th BRICS Summit via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, 24 August 2023

This frame grab taken from a video on the Telegram account of razgruzka_vagnera on August 22, 2023, shows the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin 

Prigozhin has been listed as one of the 10 passengers onboard a doomed plane that crashed into a ball of flames, killing all on board, by Russian authorities – two months to the day after he led a short-lived munity against Moscow

Flight attendant Kristina Raspopova, who was killed amid the crash of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private jet on 23 August 2023, had reportedly told family members the plane was delayed due to a technical inspection and undisclosed repairs

Wagner fighter cries at a memorial to Prigozhin in Novosibirsk

A smiling Vladimir Putin enjoyed a kiss from a female admirer and soaked up the adulation of a crowd at an event in Moscow – soon after his former friend and Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin ‘s plane exploded

Wagner Group mercenaries are now gearing up for ‘full mobilisation’ amid news Prigozhin, as well as Wagner co-founder Dmitry Utkin, were killed in the plane crash.  

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

Russian outlet Readovka, closely linked with Prigozhin, reported that the private military company had a ‘long-established approved mechanism of action in the event of the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin or Dmitry Utkin’.

A source confirmed: ‘In the event of Prigozhin’s death, there is a mechanism for ”full mobilisation” – regardless of who was at fault for his death.’

The extent to which Wagner mercenaries will react to the death of their leader remains to be seen.

But Wagner-linked channels posted a series of vengeful messages following the crash, vowing retribution if their leader is confirmed dead and declaring the people responsible ‘traitors’ to Russia.

‘There’s a lot of talk right now about what the Wagner Group will do. We can tell you one thing,’ mercenaries said in one video.

‘We are getting started, get ready for us.’ 

It comes as former head of MI6 Sir John Sawyers told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘All the indications point to the fact that Putin has taken him out, he is reasserting his control.

‘He is making clear to everyone both inside Russia and outside he is not going to brook any challenge.

‘There is a slim chance he (Prigozhin) is not dead, and he wasn’t on that plane – he will be soon.’

The ex-spy added that security services would be able to detect if a missile had brought down the aircraft, but said he believed there was a ‘device on board which brought it down suddenly’.

Sir John concluded that it was a warning to other would-be rebels to ‘toe the line’.

Christopher Steele, who was with the Secret Intelligence Service and ran the MI6 Russia desk, added to Sir John’s comments, arguing that downing Prigozhin’s plane would line up with ‘a pattern of state-backed activity’.

‘I would suspect very much that it was an FSB (Russian domestic intelligence service) or GRU (military intelligence service) operation,’ Steele said, pointing out the plane crash followed ‘just one day after General (Sergei) Surovikin was sacked from his job which was to be in charge of the security over the Russian homeland.

‘He was seen as somebody that was one of the generals who was supporting Prigozhin and was an ally of his. For him to have been removed a day before does rather suggest a pattern of state-backed activity here.’

People carry a body bag away from the wreckage of a crashed private jet, near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023

A Russian serviceman inspects a part of a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia

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

This is not the first time the Wagner chief has been declared dead in an aviation accident – in October 2019, an An-27 military aircraft crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Prigozhin believed to be aboard – only for him to emerge unscathed three days later.

And Keir Giles, of think tank Chatham House, said multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeny Prigozhin as part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels and protect himself from assassination. 

‘Let’s not be surprised if he pops up shortly in a new video from Africa,’ he said. 

Telegram channels with links to Prigozhin announced his death on Friday night shortly after news of the crash, and claimed it was caused by ‘traitors’ within Russia. 

Russian officials also claimed Prigozhin was on the plane, which crashed in a field, killing all ten onboard, just two months after his failed coup attempt against Putin’s regime. 

The Federal Air Transport Agency published a list of those it believed were on the flight, including Prigozhin and Utkin. 

But as recently as Monday, Wagner-linked channels circulated video of Prigozhin in Africa, where his private military company is deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso and several other nations.

And a second Wagner-linked plane was tracked flying over St. Petersburg at the time of the crash, adding to speculation Prigozhin may not have been travelling on the stricken jet.

Nevertheless, Wagner supporters laid tributes to their commander outside the former Wagner Centre in St Petersburg following news of the plane crash. 

Although the cause of the crash is unclear, Russian social media channels is awash with speculation that a case of fine wine onboard may in fact have been a bomb in disguise. 

Prigozhin, formerly known as Putin’s chef and with longstanding links to the Kremlin dictator, is believed to have been on a ‘kill list’ after his uprising failed and he was exiled to Belarus.

Ten bodies have been retrieved from the wreckage, local emergency services have said, but MailOnline is unable to independently verify whether Prigozhin was one of them. 

A Wagner address last night, reported by the Sun, stated: ‘We directly say that we suspect the Kremlin officials led by Putin of an attempt to kill him!’.

‘If the information about Prigozhin’s death is confirmed, we will organise a second March of Justice on Moscow!’ 

Meanwhile armed men claiming to be from the unit warned Putin in a video shared online: ‘There’s a lot of talk right now about what the Wagner Group will do. We can tell you one thing. 

‘We are getting started, get ready for us.’ 

Masked men, claiming to be Wagner fighters warned Putin to ‘get ready’ as the group prepares for a possible reaction to their leader’s reported death

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

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

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

People pay tribute to Yevgeny Prigozhin at the makeshift memorial in St Petersburg

Witnesses to the crash heard a loud bang before they saw the jet ‘fall from the sky’ – locals on social media are sharing these images of the aftermath, although it is unconfirmed at this stage if this is the plane 

The Russian Investigative Committee released a photo of the alleged crash site on Wednesday after the blaze had been extinguished

Wagner deputy and co-founder Dmitry Utkin is also claimed to have been killed in the crash

Wagner group badges were among the items left at an informal memorial outside the former Wagner Centre on Friday night

Will Prigozhin rise from the dead AGAIN? Putin’s chef was declared dead in 2019 plane crash only to reappear three days later 


Both state media and Telegram accounts affiliated to Wagner have reported Prigozhin’s and Utkin’s deaths. 

While the fate of his bitter rival remained unknown, the Russian President enjoyed a WW2 memorial concert and handed out military honours in Kursk, Russia. 

Video footage purportedly shows the aircraft falling out of the sky in the Bologovsky district in the Tver region, 60 miles north of Moscow on Friday. A burning wreckage, which appears to be of a plane, was later seen in a field, with unconfirmed images showing it completely ablaze. 

Prigozhin, 62, has been increasingly careful since he led a coup against Putin’s regime exactly two months ago.

After its failure, he had been warned that his life was in danger. He was known to take huge care over his security and is rumoured to have not been onboard the fateful plane, despite state TV asserting otherwise.

Sources close to him said that while the aircraft belonged to him, he usually flew on another aircraft.

Another plane, also supposedly with links to Prigozhin, was detected ‘zig-zagging’ over Moscow in the aftermath of the crash, fuelling speculation that the Wagner boss may not have been onboard after all.

Tracking data available for the crashed plane appears to show it rise to around 29,000ft, before suddenly disappearing and dropping to 0ft. 

A channel linked to Wagner said the plane had been shot down by air defences, but this has not yet been confirmed.

A post described Prigozhin as a ‘hero of Russia, a true patriot of his Motherland’. 

Wagner deputy and co-founder Dmitry Utkin, widely reported to be a neo-Nazi, is also claimed to have been killed in the crash.

One of the other passengers said to have died, Valeriy Chekalov, has previously been sanctioned by the US due to his links to the Wagner group. 

Russian State TV Rossiya24 was the first to announce warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death, stating: ‘A private jet flying from Moscow to St Petersburg crashed.

‘Ten people were killed. Yevgeny Prigozhin was among the passengers.’

Outside the Wagner Centre in St Petersburg, some Russians were pictured laying flowers and candles after the unit leader’s possible death. 

Ultranationalist pro-war TV channel Tsargrad said the bodies of Yevgeny Prigozhin and fellow military warlord Dmitry Utkin had been identified at the crash site. A genetic analysis was still to be carried out, and authorities have started an investigation, state media reports.

Last night, UK security officials pointed the finger at Putin, accusing the Russian president of assassinating his most dangerous political rival.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source said: ‘There is no surprise about what has happened. There are no accidents after an individual challenges Putin’s authority.

‘He has eliminated his rivals and those who have spoken out against him before and, it appears, he has done so again.

‘The question is, what happens now to the Wagner Group. Will it become Putin’s private army operating around the world?’

Security sources said they expect the Kremlin to attribute the crash to a bomb placed on board the aircraft by Ukrainian special agents. It is considered far more likely that Prigozhin’s jet was targeted by the Russian government using a surface-to-air missile or a bomb placed on board.

Stewardess Kristina Raspopova, one of the 10 on board the stricken plane, told her 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.  

Washington confirmed on Wednesday evening that President Biden has been briefed, and the UK government confirmed it was ‘monitoring the situation closely’. 

CIA Director William Burns has earlier noted that for Putin ‘revenge is a dish best served cold,’ describing the Russian president as ‘the ultimate apostle of payback.’ 

Witnesses to the crash heard a loud bang before they saw the jet ‘fall from the sky’.

Images shared on social media purport to show the burning wreckage of the plane in a field in the Tver region, and plumes of black smoke can be seen from miles away.

The numbers 795 can just about be made out on the edge of the scrap pile, which matches the plane linked to the ex-military leader. 

Roads leading to the crash site have since been blocked off by Russian police vehicles, images show. 

Men hang a Wagner flag at a memorial after Russian officials claimed Prigozhin was on the plane that crashed last night

Russians lay banners, flags, candles and bunches of flowers outside the unit’s former HQ

Two young Russians stand and look at the makeshift memorial outside the former Wagner Centre

A Telegram channel with links to Wagner announced Prigozhin’s death on Friday evening

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)

Plumes of smoke from the blaze, said to be of the plane, could be seen for miles around, video on social media shows

Firefighters rush to the scene of the blaze, believed to be Prigozhin’s plane

Ten bodies have been recovered from the wreckage, said to be pictured above, Russian officials have said

A report from Rosaviatsiya – the Russian aviation agency – said Prigozhin was among the passengers

Prigozhin has had long-established links to the Kremlin and until recently led the Wagner mercenary unit

READ MORE: Who is Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin? From Putin’s chef to Russian despot’s ‘No1 enemy’: Warlord’s rise to power as head of mercenary army before mounting failed putsch in wrangle with Kremlin over Ukraine war

US national security spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the possible death of Prigozhin would not be a surprise given his history with Putin.

‘We have seen the reports’ of the crash and if confirmed, ‘no-one should be surprised,’ she said.

President Joe Biden told reporters: ‘I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised.’

But news agency Readovka – linked to Prigozhin – said it was ‘premature’ to say he had died. He regularly ‘confused everyone’ by changing his travel plans at the last minute, the agency said.

A source claimed: ‘The infrastructure [of the plane] was not damaged, the tail fell off in one settlement, everything else in another.

‘The wing also fell off, we don’t know yet what and where. Three people, the pilots, are torn to pieces, to pieces.

‘The rest are in the tail section. Four bodies were picked open, and then it is still not clear. The plane burned out completely.

‘Only the front part, windows and a piece of hardware remained, and a piece of the engine is lying on one wing. Everything else burned out.’

Russian officials said of ten bodies found, one of them had its head separated from its shoulders. 

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 Friday night

It comes as Russian authorities begin a criminal investigation into the crash near the village of Kuzhenkino

Prigozhin pictured during his failed coup attempt against Putin in June this year

A video shared widely on social media claimed to show the aircraft ablaze

One local woman said she saw parts of the plane fall off as it plunged from the sky.

A second plane belonging to Prigozhin, the same aircraft said to be flying zigzags close to Moscow, was later reported to have landed in the capital. 

Prigozhin had been warned not to go into high buildings for fear of accidents after leading a coup aimed at ousting especially defence minister Sergei Shoigu and army chief Gen Valery Gerasimov.

He is known to have used body doubles as part of his elaborate security measures.

Commenting on the crash, military analyst Sean Bell told Sky News: ‘After that abortive coup, I don’t think any of us expected Prigozhin’s life expectancy to be more than I think we predicted three months. It looks like it’s two months.’

He later said the incident could even be a stunt by Prigozhin himself in order to allow him to disappear into a peaceful exile. 

At the time of the crash, a smirking Putin – who rarely travels to the Russian regions – was in Kursk, close to Ukraine, marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Kursk in WW2.

At the event, Putin gave awards to the military, including the top honour – Hero of Russia.

Prigozhin, whose private military force Wagner fought alongside Russia’s regular army in Ukraine, mounted a short-lived armed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership in late June. 

Wagner chief Prigozhin (pictured in March this year) became one of the most feared men in Russia during his military career

A local woman said she saw parts of the plane, said to be pictured above, fall off as it plunged from the sky

The jet linked to the Wagner chief has previously flown members of his team around Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Kursk

Russian President Putin was last night pictured at a concert in Kursk

The grand event in Kursk saw Putin hand out military offers, as his biggest rival’s fate remained unknown

His paramilitary unit had been associated with some of the worst atrocities of the conflict in Ukraine, but Prigozhin’s relationship with the Kremlin broke down over high mortality rates, lack of equipment and lack of wages.

READ MORE: Meanwhile…smug despot Putin attends concert celebrating Russian WW2 victory – as reports spread that Wagner rival Prigozhin has been killed in plane crash


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.

Having taken the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, the army marched north for several hours, forcing the capital into lockdown, before an agreement between him and the government was reached. 

The mutiny was ended by negotiations and an apparent Kremlin deal which saw Prigozhin agree to relocate to neighbouring Belarus. But he had appeared to move freely inside Russia after the deal nonetheless.

Shortly after that, Wagner fighters set up camp in Belarus, but Prigozhin’s plane, according to media reports, was flying back and forth between Belarus and Russia.

This week Prigozhin posted his first recruitment video since the mutiny, saying that Wagner is conducting reconnaissance and search activities, and ‘making Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa even more free’.Prigozhin, who had sought to topple Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, had posted the video address just this Monday – but the date of the shoot is unknown.

Source: Read Full Article