Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led a failed uprising against the Kremlin exactly two months ago, was on board a plane that crashed on Wednesday, according to Russian officials – raising questions as to exactly how the disaster occurred.
The crash took place northwest of Moscow and killed all on board, said Russia’s aviation agency, apparently including Prigozhin, chief of the mercenary group that gained prominence for its brutal methods worldwide and its battleground victories in the Ukraine war.
Here’s what we know so far.
The plane was a private Embraer jet carrying seven passengers and three crew members, according to Russia’s emergency services ministry.
It had departed from Moscow and was en route to St. Petersburg when it crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino, in Russia’s western Tver region, Russian officials said. Flight data shows the plane reached an altitude of some 28,000 feet before it suddenly stopped transmitting tracking details.
The bodies of eight people have been found at the crash site, according to Russian state media. The official state news agency TASS reported the plane “burned up” on impact. It had been in the air for about half an hour.
“Upon freefall the Embraer plane wreckage broke apart across a 2 km area away from the village [Kuzhenkino] where most of the fuselage wreckage was found,” state media outlet Russia 24 reported Thursday. “The majority of the wreckage fell near agricultural enterprises.”
Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti also reported Thursday that one of the fragments of the plane was lying on the entry road into Kuzhenkino, where police had set up a cordon, with several special services cars parked nearby.
Video published by RIA Novosti showed a plane plummeting with one wing missing. CNN is unable to confirm the authenticity of the video, but RIA Novosti claimed it was the moment that an Embraer jet fell from the sky over the Tver region.
A woman from Kuzhenkino told RIA Novosti she heard the sound of an airplane near her house on Wednesday evening, that was “something like a bang, like a shot.”
She continued: “Then suddenly an explosion, I look up and heard a sound above me – it was like pops, like several explosions.
“The plane started to swerve. Then a plume of smoke emerged and the plane began to descend, to dive.”
After the plane fell from the sky, residents told the state media outlet that a black cloud was visible. Lyudmila Osypova told RIA Novosti that “a neighbor ran up to me, her hands were shaking. When we got to the window, I saw only one mushroom cloud, like a black cloud.”
The woman clarified that she did not see the moment of the crash with her own eyes, but the neighbor claimed that she had. “She said that it was terrifying. There was a loud bang, then she turned her head to look and the whole plane was in sparkles of fire, it was all lit up. Said they saw it caught fire and began to fall,” Osypova added.