Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia’s Wagner Group, was in a plane crash Wednesday that has left 10 people dead outside of Moscow, state media is reporting.
The TASS news agency reported the business jet departed from St. Petersburg and went down in the Tver region.
The BBC reported the Wagner-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone reported the aircraft was shot down north of Moscow. The jet was carrying seven passengers and three crew.
“Prigozhin was listed among the passengers, according to the Federal Air Transport Agency,” TASS reported. “An investigation into the crash of the Embraer aircraft has been launched, the department noted.”
Fox News reported that in June, Prigozhin initiated a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime in his 23 years in power. Prigozhin reportedly marched 25,000 mercenary troops to within 125 miles of Moscow, but ultimately retreated to his home base in Belarus.
At the time, Putin called Prigozhin a traitor and vowed harsh punishment. Criminal charges were dropped after a three-hour meeting with Prigozhin, but many expected retribution.
The reported tragedy comes less than a week after Prigozhin posted a video proclaiming that the Wagner Group Russian mercenary force was working behind the scenes to make Russia “greater” and Africa “freer.”
A man of war, Prigozhin said: “Justice and happiness for African nations. Giving hell to ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other bandits.”
Prigozhin added: “Recruiting real warriors and continuing to complete the tasks that have been given and we had promised to master.”
Since 2014, Russia has used the Wagner group to move forward its geopolitical objectives.
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