Russian investigators looking into the plane crash which killed Yevgeny Prigozhin have admitted they’re considering the possibility it was downed on purpose.
The Wagner Group boss was killed when his private plane was downed on August 23. He and the nine other passengers and crew on board were killed.
Now the Kremlin has acknowledged for the first time that Prigozhin may have been assassinated.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin, said: ‘It is obvious that different versions are being considered, including the version – you know what we are talking about – let’s say, a deliberate atrocity.’
Asked if the International Civil Aviation Organization would investigate the crash, Mr Peskov said that the circumstances made it different, though he cautioned that investigators had made no formal conclusions yet about what exactly took place.
‘Let’s wait for the results of our Russian investigation,’ Mr Peskov added.
Brazil’s aircraft investigation authority said it was told by Russia that it will not probe the crash of the Brazilian-made Embraer jet under international rules ‘at the moment’.
Mr Peskov said: ‘First of all, the investigation is under way, the Investigative Committee is engaged in this.
‘In this case there can be no talk of any international aspect.’
The Kremlin has dismissed claims that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered for Prigozhin to be killed as ‘absolute lies’, and has denied any involvement in the crash.
The plane was travelling from St Petersburg to Moscow when it crashed, killing all seven passengers and three crew. Two other top Wagner Group figures and four of Prigozhin’s bodyguards were on board.
The cause is still unclear, but villagers near the scene said they heard a bang and then saw the jet plummet to the ground.
The plane crashed exactly two months after Prigozhin took control of the southern city of Rostov in late June – the opening of a mutiny which shook Putin, supposedly leaving him paralysed.
The day after the crash, Putin sent his condolences to the families of those killed and said he had known Prigozhin for a very long time, since the chaotic years of the early 1990s.
‘He was a man with a difficult fate, and he made serious mistakes in life,’ Putin said, while describing him as a talented businessman.
Prigozhin was an outspoken critic of Russia’s military, criticising its war leaders and strategies which he claimed would lead them to lose the war with Ukraine.
However many believe he could still be alive, as he – like Putin – used body doubles, and often changed travel plans at the last minute.
It’s been speculated that one of Prigozhin’s body doubles could have died in the crash – fueled by the wife of his main doppelganger visiting his tomb the day after the funeral.
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