Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of a group that rebelled against Russia’s military in June, is believed dead in a plane crash between Moscow and St Petersburg.
According to the Russian state news agency Tass, all 10 people on the plane died. Yevgeny Prigozhin’s name was on the passenger list. The Russian Government has not officially confirmed his death.
Here’s what you need to know.
Yevgeny Prigozhin is the leader of the Wagner group. Wagner is a mercenary group, meaning its soldiers are available to fight on behalf of Russia or other countries. It is separate from the Russian army.
In June, Prigozhin attempted to overthrow the Russian army and its leadership, but it failed.
Prigozhin was then exiled to Belarus. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko told reporters he was back in Russia at the start of July, however.
The plane crash
There was a plane crash in Russia’s Tver region on Wednesday (local time). The plane had been in the air for less than 30 minutes when it crashed.
Although Prigozhin’s name is on the passenger list, Russian officials still have not officially confirmed his death.
Authorities do not yet know what caused the crash. Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency has launched an investigation.
Wagner-associated accounts have posted tributes on Telegram, a popular social media app in Russia. One post described Prigozhin as a “hero of Russia” who died “as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia”.
Wagner forces lit up their building in St. Petersburg in the shape of a cross, and a small memorial has formed nearby.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not publicly commented on the crash.
Reporters asked U.S. President Joe Biden if he thought Putin was behind the crash, to which he responded: “There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind. But I don’t know enough to know the answer.”