On Sunday (27 August), Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed that one of the men who died in a plane crash earlier this week was Wagner Chief Evgeny Prigozhin. The Russian authority added that all the ten individuals who died in the plane crash have been identified with the help of DNA analysis.
In a statement released on Sunday, the committee’s chief spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko said that Russian investigators had completed DNA testing of the bodies of those who were on board the Embraer 135BJ Legacy 600 plane, Russian media RT reported.
As per the Russian news outlet RIA Novosti, the investigators conducted a molecular genetic examination to identify the deceased individuals. The DNA testing was completed on Sunday which confirmed that the Wagner Chief Prigozhin was among the 10 people who died in the crash.
However, the exact cause behind the plane crash is still unknown. Following the identification process, the Russian authorities have initiated a criminal investigation into the violation of the rules of air traffic safety and operation of air transport, RIA Novosti reported.
It is pertinent to note that an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet claimed to be Prigozhin’s private jet was flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg on Wednesday, 25 August. However, the jet crashed when it was in the Tver Region which is in the north-west of Moscow killing all those who were on board.
Committee’s spokesperson Petrenko said, “The identities of all 10 of the deceased have been established, [and] they correspond to the flight list.”
The flight list was earlier shared by the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency and it included Wagner PMC Chief Prigozhin. Several high-ranking Wagner operatives also died in the crash and they have been identified as Dmitry Utkin, who is claimed to be the co-founder of the Wagner PMC, and Valery Chekalov, who was considered to be the deputy head of the group.
The other deceased have been identified as Wagner members Valery Chekalov, Sergei Propustin, Yevgeny Makaryan, Alexander Totmin, and Nikolay Matuseyev.
The flight crew included two pilots (Alexei Levshin and Rustam Karimov) and an air hostess (Kristina Raspopova) have also been proclaimed dead in the crash.
Apparently, a week earlier, Former Wagner Chief Prigozhin released a video seemingly filmed in Africa. Back then, he claimed that the Wagner Group had reopened recruitment, and was conducting “reconnaissance and search activities” against “ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other bandits”, as reported by the Russian news agency RT.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on the supposed death of Prigozhin in the plane crash. As per RT, Putin described the businessman as a “talented” man of “complicated destiny” who made a significant contribution to the fight against neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
Further, hours before Prighozin’s death was confirmed, Putin ordered the Wagner group to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state. As per a report in The Guardian, Putin signed a decree in this regard and stated that it would be implemented with immediate effect.
The decree read, “Fighters must pledge their loyalty to the Russian Federation… strictly follow their commanders and superiors’ orders, and conscientiously fulfill their obligations.”