Russia’s civilian aviation regulator, Rosaviatsiya, said the 62-year-old mercenary leader was among 10 people on board the plane that crashed
Mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has allegedly died in a plane crash, a Russian agency announced Wednesday, just two months after leading a failed coup against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s civilian aviation regulator, Rosaviatsiya, said 62-year-old Prigozhin — who controlled a Russian-funded private military company called the Wagner Group — was among 10 people on board the plane that crashed.
According to the BBC, a Wagner-linked Telegram channel called Grey Zone reported that the jet was shot down north of Moscow.
In addition to leading the Wagner mercenary group, Prigozhin formerly operated a catering company and was at one time a close confidant of Putin.
But the man who would become known for managing army catering contracts also had a reputation for being ruthless, with the BBC once describing him as having "a reputation as the cruellest commander among those leading Russia’s grim invasion."
He made headlines this year when he began to vocally criticize Putin and the invasion of Ukraine. In June, he accused Russia’s military of attacking a Wagner camp and vowed to retaliate.
“The war was needed for a bunch of scumbags to triumph and show how strong of an army they are,” Prigozhin claimed, according to Politico.
Prigozhin then vowed to retaliate with "force," ultimately claiming he would “destroy” any resistance — orders Russian Lieutenant General Vladimir Alekseev called a "coup d’état."
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Putin, 70, in an address, later labeled Prigozhin's actions as "treason" and that the threat should expect a "severe response" from the country. In response, on Telegram, Prigozhin called his fighters “patriots of our Motherland” and claimed they would not be turning themselves in.
The coup was ultimately called off, but not before Wagner mercenaries reportedly gained control of the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, a logistical hub for the Russian military.
Outlets including CNBC have reported that a deal was said to have been made between Prigozhin and Putin. As part of the reported deal, Prigozhin allegedly agreed to leave Russia for good, and to move his forces to Belarus.
Earlier this week, Prigozhin appeared in his first video since the attempted coup, hinting that he was in Africa, though his location was not verified by any state agencies.
Speaking to CNBC about Prigozhin following the failed coup, political scientist Ian Bremmer described him as a "dead man walking," adding: “I would be very surprised that he’s still with us in a few months’ time.”
Bremmer continued: “Putin has imprisoned and assassinated people for far less than what Prigozhin has done to him. It’s inconceivable to me that Putin will allow him to live any longer than is absolutely necessary.”
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum last month, Sec. of State Antony Blinken offered a similar warning to Prigozhin, saying, "wherever Wagner goes, exploitation, death, and destruction inevitably follow."
Blinken continued: "If I were Mr. Prigozhin, I would remain very concerned. NATO has an 'Open Door' policy; Russia has an open windows policy, and he needs to be very focused on that."
February marked the year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has since led to countless deaths and the displacement of millions of people.
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