Friday, June 21, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 547

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

US and Ukraine ‘at odds’ over counteroffensive tactics: Report

American officials are “frustrated” with Ukraine’s reluctance to accept their advice on how to conduct the counteroffensive against Russian forces, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The newspaper claimed it was still “not too late” for Kiev to follow instructions from Washington, and to utilize the training that tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops have received from NATO nations. The outlet noted, however, that the two sides are still “at odds about how to turn the tables on the Russians” before winter sets in.

According to the WSJ’s sources, the US believes that the amount of Western military aid sent to Ukraine is enough to breach Russian defenses, although the window of opportunity is closing.

“We built up this mountain of steel for the counteroffensive. We can’t do that again,” one former US official explained, adding, “It doesn’t exist.”

The Ukrainian military leadership has attempted to deflect criticism by claiming that the Americans do not understand the kind of warfare that Kiev is engaged in, the daily added.

“This is not counterinsurgency. This is Kursk,” General Valery Zaluzhny, Kiev’s top military commander, told his US interlocutors, according to an unnamed American official.

Zaluzhny was referring to a key World War II battle on the eastern front, in which defending Soviet troops stopped Nazi forces before turning the tables on them.

Figures in Washington want Zaluzhny to concentrate Ukrainian forces near the southern city of Tokmak for a push towards the Azov Sea, the article claimed. It added that US officials disapprove of President Vladimir Zelensky’s focus on attempts to retake the city of Artyomovsk in the east, which Kiev calls Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian leader, who has invested symbolic significance in the settlement, reportedly argued that recapturing it would boost troop morale. US officials have long said Artyomovsk has no strategic value, urging a withdrawal before Ukrainian troops were ousted from it in late May. The WSJ said Kiev had made adjustments in recent weeks by taking a defensive posture in the east.

Russia has argued that the US is using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder in a proxy war against Moscow. The Russian military has claimed that Ukrainian troop losses during the first two months of its summer counteroffensive were more than 43,000.

Putin expresses ‘condolences’ over plane crash

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed condolences over the Yevgeny Prigozhin plane crash.

Putin praised Prigozhin as a talented businessman and said he wished to express sincere condolences to the families of those who died.

He added in televised comments that it was necessary to await the outcome of the official investigation into the crash, in which all 10 people on board were killed. The Russian president said the inquiry would take some time.

He said Prigozhin was a talented man who made “mistakes” and the Wagner crash victims made a “significant contribution” in Ukraine.

In his remarks, Putin stated: “I knew Prigozhin for a very long time, since the early 90s.

He was a man of complicated fate, and he made serious mistakes in his life, but he achieved the right results. And he strove for the results he needed for himself, and when I asked him about it, for the common cause, as in these last months. He was a talented person, a talented businessman, he worked not only in our country, and worked with results, but also abroad, in Africa in particular. He was involved there with oil, gas, precious metals and stones.

“As far as I know, he just returned yesterday from Africa. He met some officials here. But what is quite definite – the head of the Investigative Committee reported to me this morning – is they have already begun a preliminary investigation into this event. And it will be carried out in full, and taken right to the end,” he continued.

US believes missile inside Russia likely shot down Prigozhin’s presumed plane

The United States believes a surface-to-air missile originating from inside Russia likely shot down the plane presumed to be carrying mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin on Wednesday, two US officials told Reuters.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter, stressed that the information was still preliminary and under review.

Russian air authorities have said Prigozhin, his right-hand man Dmitry Utkin and eight other people were on the private plane that crashed with no survivors north of Moscow on Wednesday.

Lithuania announces new military package for Ukraine

Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defence has announced a military package for Ukraine worth 41 million euros ($44m) to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day.

“Lithuania’s contribution to the fight for Ukraine’s freedom already amounts to millions of rounds of ammunition and thousands of weapons, and the return received is valuable lessons learned and Lithuanian defence strengthened,” the ministry said in a statement.

Zelensky says no casualties in Ukrainian special forces raid on Crimean coast

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated there were no casualties reported among special forces that carried out a raid against Russian facilities in Crimea early Thursday morning.

“There were no casualties on our side, which is good news,” Zelensky said.

The attack appears to be one of the Ukrainian armed forces’ most complex and ambitious operations to date against Russian military facilities on the Crimean Peninsula.

Zelensky added that he would receive a report on the assault later.

EU says it’s “hard to verify” reports Wagner chief killed in plane crash

The European Union has announced it is “hard to verify” reports that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is presumed to have been killed in a plane crash on Wednesday evening.

“We have seen the report about the plane crash which allegedly killed Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Wagner group, alongside members of his entourage and crew members,” said Peter Stano, the bloc’s lead spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, at a press briefing on Thursday.

“But again, like so many other things in Russia, this is very hard to verify for us, and therefore not for us to comment,” Stano added.

Stano said the “negative actions” of Prigozhin and the Wagner group are widely known, pointing towards its involvement in the Ukraine war and its operations in African countries.

“Everywhere they [the Wagner group] have been present, were present or are present they left a trail of violation of human rights, [and] international humanitarian law. There is a lot of unaccountability, there are unclear rules under which they operate,” Stano added.

The group’s future operations will not only be affected by the “alleged death of Prigozhin” but also by “events in June” when the group decided to march on Moscow in a short-lived rebellion, he added.

Stano said that although the EU hopes that the “negative impact” of Wagner’s operations will cease, the bloc is mindful that the mercenary group is “not linked only to the name of its leader.”

He noted that the group’s affiliation with the Kremlin is one of several “complex issues,” while also emphasizing that it is not for the EU to “speculate whether the alleged killing or death of Prigozhin in a plane crash will have any specific consequences on Wagner’s activities.”

Prigozhin ‘identified after being taken to mortuary’

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s body has been identified after his private jet crashed north of Moscow yesterday, according to Russian media.

Fontanka, the St Petersburg-based news outlet, said “indirect evidence” indicated the mercenary leader was among the ten people who died aboard the Embraer jet.

The bodies have been transported to a mortuary in the Tver region, with formal identification expected to take place later.

Previous reports from the crash site suggested they were too charred to recognise and would have to undergo DNA testing.

It is unclear what evidence suggests Prigozhin is among the dead. He is thought to have a partially-missing finger on his left hand, which may have aided identification.

Portugal ‘ready to train Ukrainian pilots in F-16s’

Portugal is ready to join Denmark in training Ukrainian pilots to use F-16 fighter jets, according to Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Ukrainian president said: “President of Portugal Marcel Rebelo de Sousa and I spoke, first of all, about our defence and security cooperation.”

“I briefed Mr. President on the situation on the battlefield, as well as on the defence needs of Ukraine,” he continued, adding, “Portugal confirmed its readiness to join the training of Ukrainian pilots and engineers on F-16s.”

Prigozhin’s reported death ‘does not makes us feel calmer’: Lithuanian president

Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda has said that the Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s reported death if true, does not change much for his country, according to local media reports.

“It demonstrates that the [Russian] regime is entering another stage and that these people, whatever you may call them, are now killing each other, but we should certainly not think that this death of Prigozhin makes us feel calmer or that it somehow improves the security situation,” Nauseda stated in Kyiv.

Norway to donate F-16 jets to Ukraine

Norway has decided to donate F-16 combat aircraft to Ukraine, according to a report from Norwegian broadcaster TV2.

The report did not specify how many jets it would provide.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of the president of Ukraine, welcomed the news on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter).

Zelensky said Ukraine had nothing to do with plane crash that may have killed Prigozhin

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine had nothing to do with the plane crash that is presumed to have killed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin on Wednesday, Ukrainian state media reported.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Portugal President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza, who is visiting Kyiv, Zelensky said: “We have nothing to do with this situation. That’s for sure.”

“But I think everyone realizes who has,” the president added.

Zelensky did not elaborate further.

Kremlin silent on Prigozhin plane crash

Nearly 24 hours after the crash of an aircraft that Russian authorities say was carrying Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and two of his top lieutenants, the Kremlin has said nothing about the incident.

No other senior Russian official has commented either.

President Vladimir Putin was at an event in Kursk on Wednesday when news emerged on the crash of Prigozhin’s plane, but offered no comment there nor on his return to Moscow.

There was no conference call with Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov on Thursday for media. The last call held by Peskov was on August 4.

Putin met with Prigozhin and Wagner commanders several days after the short-lived mutiny at the end of June, despite previously describing the event as an act of treason.

Prigozhin was subsequently able to move freely and even appeared on the sidelines of the Africa summit organized by the Kremlin in St Petersburg last month.

Situation ‘tense and very dynamic’ on eastern front lines: Ukraine’s deputy DM

Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, stated the situation all along the eastern front lines is “tense and very dynamic”.

“In the Kupyan direction, the enemy does not stop trying to advance. They continue to carry out numerous attacks, trying to hit infrastructure,” she said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

“Active fighting is also going on in the Bakhmut direction, where the enemy is constantly attacking, using armoured vehicles and aviation. Their goal is to stop our advance at any cost,” she continued.

“At the same time, we are gradually advancing even in the face of desperate enemy resistance,” she added.

Poland says Wagner would be more dangerous under Putin’s leadership

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has stated that the Wagner Group will become an even bigger threat now that it is likely to come under the control of Russian President Vladimir Putin following the presumed death of its boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“The Wagner Group comes under Putin’s leadership. Let everyone answer the question for themselves – will the threat be bigger or smaller? For me, that’s a rhetorical question,” Morawiecki told a news conference in the Polish capital Warsaw.

Ukraine says its forces carried out a raid on the Crimean coast

Ukrainian forces carried out what Kyiv called a special operation in the annexed Crimean Peninsula, a government spokesman said Thursday. What exactly happened remains unclear.

Andrii Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Directorate of Intelligence, said the agency partnered with Ukraine’s Navy to carry out the operation. Yusov said authorities would not be disclosing all the details surrounding the mission — only that it was a success, there were no Ukrainian casualties and that there were losses on the enemy’s side.

While Yusov declined to offer details, accounts on social media help paint a picture of what happened. According to a channel called “Krym Realii” on the messaging app Telegram, explosions were heard near the village of Mayak on Cape Tarkhankut at about 5 a.m. Other unofficial social media accounts spoke of hearing gunfire near a campsite on the Crimean coast. One said that people had seen two rubber boats close to the shore.

Russian forces are believed to have stationed missiles at various locations on Crimea’s west coast that have been used to target Odesa, a nearby Ukrainian port city on the Black Sea, and other locations.

Ukrainian forces have, in recent weeks, stepped up their operations targeting Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russian forces in 2014 in violation of international law, using missiles and sea drones to hit Kremlin targets there.

In an interview with CNN last month, Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Kyiv would continue carrying out attacks on Crimea and the Kerch Bridge that connects it to the Russian mainland.

Ukraine’s military said Wednesday that it had “completely destroyed” a Russian missile system in a village on the same cape where the Thursday special operation took place.

France says conditions under which Prigozhin plane crash occurred “remain unknown”

A French government spokesman said many details about the plane crash that is presumed to have killed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin “remain unknown.”

When asked by French television station France 2 if he was surprised by the news of the crash, Olivier Veran stated, “We still don’t know the conditions under which this crash took place. We can have reasonable doubts.”

Veran added that Prigozhin was the man behind “Putin’s dirty work” and, if he is indeed dead, he would leave behind “a terrible mess” in large parts of the world. Veran said that Prigozhin’s actions are “inseparable” from President Vladimir Putin’s politics.

Veran also agreed with US President Joe Biden’s statement that “little happens in Russia that Putin is not behind,” saying that “on principle that is a truth we can establish.”

Wagner-linked channel plays down mutiny reports

Another Wagner blogger has poured cold water on claims that the mercenary group is planning a second attempt at its abortive coup against Russia’s leadership.

Wagner Z Group posted on Telegram: “[Channels] pretending to be Wagners say here we are preparing a trip to Moscow.

“Everyone carries what he wants, now every gopher is an agronomist,” it added.

Rybar, a prominent Russian military blogger, dismissed reports of a mutiny as Ukrainian propaganda “which is easy to recognise”.

‘This war cannot be ended with rational decisions’: German FM

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has expressed her disappointment with the effect of the sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Actually, economic sanctions should have an economic impact. But they don’t. Because the logic of democracies does not work in autocracies,” she said in an interview with journalist Stephan Lamby for a newly published book.

The book “Ernstfall. Regieren in Zeiten des Krieges,” which translates as “Emergency. Governing in Times of War,” examines the German government’s response to the war in Ukraine and will be published on Thursday.

“We have seen that this war cannot be ended with rational decisions, rational measures that you take between civilized governments,” Baerbock added.

Aircraft ascended and descended several times before crash: Flightradar24

Flightradar24, a Swedish internet-based service that shows real-time aircraft flight tracking information has released its report on the plane crash.

“Even though the aircraft was not transmitting position information, other data like altitude, speed, vertical rate, and autopilot settings were broadcast. It is this data that provides some insight into the final moments of the flight” the report stated.

After levelling off at 28,000 feet at 6:10pm (15:10 GMT) Flightradar24 says the aircraft continued in level flight at consistent speed until 6:19pm (15:19GMT) at which point the vertical rate decreased dramatically causing the aircraft to descend briefly before climbing to a maximum altitude of 30,100 feet and then dropping to roughly 27,500 feet.

Flightradar24 added the plane then climbed once more reaching 29,300 feet and levelling off once again before eventually spiralling into a fall to the ground.

Prigozhin plane crash wreckage scattered across a 2-kilometer debris field: Russian state media

Wreckage of the plane crash northwest of Moscow is scattered across a 2-kilometer debris field, Russian state media reported Thursday.

“Upon freefall the Embraer plane wreckage broke apart across a 2 kilometer area away from the village [Kuzhenkino] where most of the fuselage wreckage was found,” state-run outlet Russia 24 said.

“The majority of the wreckage fell near agricultural enterprises,” it added.

State-run news agency RIA Novosti also reported that one of the fragments of the plane is lying on the entry road into the village of Kuzhenkino, which is approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the crash site.

According to RIA, police officers cordoned off the fragment and several special services cars are parked nearby.

Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board the plane that crashed with no survivors, according to Russian authorities, just months after he launched a mutiny against Russia’s military leadership.

The Kremlin is yet to comment on the crash. The Russian Investigative Committee said earlier it had initiated “a criminal case” following the crash, while state aviation authority Rosaviation said a specially created commission “has begun investigating the circumstances and causes of the accident.”

Ukrainian forces ‘advancing south of Bakhmut’

Ukrainian are reportedly moving towards the eastern city of Bakhmut, according to its general staff, although it is unclear how much ground it has taken.

It said in a statement: “The Ukrainian military is advancing south of the city of Bakhmut… in that area they are entrenched at the achieved boundaries.”

Previous fighting has taken place around the village of Klishchiivka, where Ukraine has attempted cut off a supply route to the besieged settlement.

The statement added: “On the southern front, the Defence Forces are conducting an offensive operation in the direction of Melitopol, and were successful in the direction of Novoprokopivka.”

Three Ukrainian drones shot down over Russian territory

Russian air defence systems shot down three Ukrainian drones over Russian territory, the defence ministry in Moscow announced.

Two drones were downed over Russia’s Bryansk region that borders Ukraine and a third was taken down over the Kaluga region that is closer to Moscow, the ministry said early on Thursday.

There were no initial reports of casualties or damage to infrastructure and property.

Ukraine has carried out near-daily drone raids on Russian territory over the past week, particularly attempted attacks on the capital Moscow.

Putin likely calculated Prigozhin would not become ‘a martyr’: Think tank

Washington DC-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Russian President Vladimir Putin “almost certainly” ordered Russia’s military command to shoot down the plane on which Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary force Wagner, was reported to be travelling.

According to the ISW, Putin likely calculated that he could remove Prigozhin without turning him into “a martyr for the remaining Wagner personnel” after having successfully undermined and separated the Wagner boss from his mercenary force over recent months.

“Putin may have decided that Wagner personnel had reached a point where they were sufficiently more interested in payments and deployments with these new PMCS (private military companies) than their continued loyalty to Prigozhin and that he could safely kill Prigozhin,” the ISW announced.

The “assassinations” of Prigozhin and Wagner’s founder Dmitry Utkin, who was also reported onboard the plane, “will have dramatic impacts on Wagner’s command structure and the Wagner brand”, ISW noted.

“Wagner commanders and fighters may begin to fear for their lives or become demoralized. The Russian MoD’s and Kremlin’s inroads into Wagner’s operations and the absence of Prigozhin – who would fight for new opportunities for Wagner personnel – may further lead to the degradation of the Wagner grouping,” ISW added.

Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel blames Prigozhin death on ‘traitors’

A Telegram channel associated with the Wagner Group blamed “traitors” for the death of Prigozhin, the Reuters news agency reported.

“The head of the Wagner Group, a Hero of Russia, a true patriot of his Motherland – Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin died as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia,” a post in the Grey Zone channel said.

“But even in Hell, he will be the best! Glory to Russia!” it added.

Russian TV station claims Prigozhin’s body provisionally identified

Pro-Kremlin television station Tsargrad TV has reported, citing its own sources, that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s body has been provisionally identified, but that DNA analysis was still pending, according to the DPA news agency.

The crash, which remains shrouded in mystery, has ignited speculation about how Prigozhin, an outspoken critic of top Russian defence officials, met his fate – if his death is officially confirmed.

The Grey Zone Telegram channel, which is affiliated with Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary forces, suggested the plane was shot down, but offered no evidence to support its claim.

Top Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin was also reportedly on the plane.

Russia’s aviation authority Rosaviatsiya said an investigation was under way into the cause of the crash but offered no preliminary theory as to what may have happened.

Over 500 children have been killed in Ukraine since start of war: Charity

Some 541 children have been killed in Ukraine since the war began in February 2022, British charity Save the Children said in a report on Wednesday, with this June being the deadliest month recorded.

As air and drone attacks tripled this summer, the international charity recorded a 16% increase in child casualties between May and August, compared to the previous four months. The agency said 95% of those attacks took place in populated areas, prompting an increase in overall civilian fatalities, citing UN verified data.

Since May 2023, the charity added 148 children have been killed or injured. June was the deadliest month for children so far when 11 children were killed and 43 more were injured.

“Since last February, more than 1,680 children have been killed or injured due to unrelenting hostilities. The vast majority of those casualties are attributed to missiles and drones being fired at residential areas,” Amjad Yamin, Save the Children’s Advocacy Director in Ukraine, said in a statement.

“This serves as a grim reminder that explosive weapons should not be used anywhere near populated areas, such as towns and villages,” he added.

“Putin has a very long history of silencing his critics”: US official

The plane crash in Russia will not change the White House’s posture toward the Kremlin or the war in Ukraine, a US official told CNN.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Wagner mercenary group, was on board the plane that crashed with no survivors northwest of Moscow, according to Russian authorities, just months after he launched a mutiny against Russia’s military leadership.

“Vladimir Putin has a very long history of silencing his critics,” the US official said Wednesday.

The official noted that the eventual death of Prigozhin was largely expected by the Biden administration after the Wagner chief brokered a deal with the Kremlin in June.

“We’ll continue to support Ukraine in Russia’s war,” the official added, “and push for accountability for the atrocities Russian forces are committing in Ukraine, included those committed by the Wagner forces.”

The National Security Council would not confirm the veracity of reports of Prigozhin’s death, referring to its earlier statement: “We have seen the reports. If confirmed, no one should be surprised. The disastrous war in Ukraine led to a private army marching on Moscow, and now — it would seem — to this.”

Earlier, US President Joe Biden suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been behind the plane crash.

“You may recall, I was asked about this,” Biden told CNN, alluding to comments he made in July in which he said Prighozin should be worried about his safety following the failed mutiny.

“I said I would be careful what I rode in. I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised,” Biden stated Wednesday.

Prigozhin “signed a special death warrant for himself”: Ukrainian presidential adviser

The “demonstrative elimination of (Yevgeny) Prigozhin” shows that Russian President Vladimir Putin “does not forgive anyone for his own bestial terror,” Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukrainian presidential adviser, claimed on social media.

“About Prigozhin: It is worth waiting for the fog of war to disappear… Meanwhile, it is obvious that Putin does not forgive anyone for his own bestial terror. Exactly the one that nullified him in June 2023,” Podolyak said.

The crash comes two months after Prigozhin launched a mutiny against Russia’s military leadership. The attempted rebellion was called off in a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that required Prigozhin and his fighters to relocate to Belarus.

But Podolyak claimed Putin was “waiting for the moment.”

“It is also obvious that Prigozhin signed a special death warrant for himself the moment he believed in Lukashenko’s bizarre ‘guarantees’ and Putin’s equally absurd ‘word of honor,” he added, referring to the deal that ended the Wagner group’s short-lived rebellion.

Following that deal, criminal charges were dropped against the Wagner boss. But Putin said in a speech at the time that those on the “path of treason” would face punishment.

“The demonstrative elimination of Prigozhin and the Wagner command two months after the coup attempt is a signal from Putin to Russia’s elites ahead of the 2024 elections. ‘Beware! Disloyalty equals death,'” Podolyak claimed Wednesday.

“But it is also a signal to the Russian military: There will be no ‘SVO [special military operation] heroes.’ If it isn’t a Ukrainian tribunal, it will be an FSB bullet,” he noted.

The Kremlin is yet to comment on the crash.

New flight-tracking data shows “dramatic descent” of plane purportedly carrying Prigozhin

Newly analyzed flight-tracking data show the private jet purportedly carrying Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin experienced a “dramatic descent.”

Flight-tracking site FlightRadar24 says the Embraer Legacy 600 stopped transmitting position data at 6:11 p.m. local time, likely due to “interference/jamming in the area,” but the jet continued to transmit other data for another nine minutes.

FlightRadar24 says its data show the flight leveled off at 28,000 feet and made some slight altitude changes. The last minute of available data shows the plane making erratic climbs and descents, at one point climbing above 30,000 feet.

Then, at 6:19 p.m. local time, the data show the descent rate of the plane neared a blistering 8,000 feet per minute before the transmission of altitude data stopped.

“Even though the aircraft was not transmitting position information, other data like altitude, speed, vertical rate, and autopilot settings were broadcast,” according to a FlightRadar24 blog post.

“It is this data that provides some insight into the final moments of the flight,” it added.

Russian transport agency says Prigozhin was on board plane that crashed

The Russian Federal Air Transport Agency has confirmed that Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board a plane that crashed in the Tver region Wednesday.

The aviation agency reported that, according to the carrier that operated the Embraer that crashed, the following people were on board, in addition to Prigozhin:

  • Sergey Propustin
  • Evgeniy Makaryan
  • Aleksandr Totmin
  • Valeriy Chekalov, a senior aide to Prigozhin designated by the US Treasury for acting “for or on behalf of Prigozhin and has facilitated shipments of munitions to the Russian Federation”
  • Dmitriy Utkin, a trusted lieutenant of Prigozhin’s since the beginning of the Wagner Group
  • Nikolay Matuseev

Wagner-linked social media channel says Prigozhin has been killed

A Telegram social media channel linked to the Wagner private military group has issued a statement saying Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has been killed in a plane crash north of Moscow.

The channel has previously carried Wagner propaganda videos, and Prigozhin’s official press service has linked to it in the past.

Other channels associated with Prigozhin and Wagner, including his official Telegram channel, have remained silent.

A well-known but unofficial Russian Telegram channel that has been close to Wagner operations, Grey Zone, also claimed that Prigozhin had been killed.

Biden suggests Putin may be behind the plane crash

US President Joe Biden suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been behind the crash of a plane near Moscow.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is listed among passengers of the plane, and Biden said he wasn’t surprised that the Russian mercenary may have been targeted.

“You may recall, I was asked about this,” Biden told CNN’s Kevin Liptak, alluding to comments he made in July in which he said Prighozin should be worried about his safety following the failed mutiny.

“I said I would be careful what I rode in. I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised,” Biden stated Wednesday.

At a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, in July, Biden joked that if he were Prighozin, “I’d be careful what I eat, keep my eye on my menu.”

Biden added that there is “not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not behind but I don’t know enough to know the answer.”

The president had just walked out of a fitness studio in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where the White House says he attended a Pilates class followed by a spin class.

At least 8 bodies found at plane crash site: Report

State media outlet Russia-24 has reported that eight bodies have been found at the plane crash site in Tver, which is north of Moscow.

Russian state media has reported that 10 people were on board the aircraft.

Russian officials have not identified any of the victims, although Russian state news agency TASS reported that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was listed on the passenger manifest.

Russian Investigative Committee launches criminal case following plane crash

The Russian Investigative Committee said it has initiated “a criminal case” following the crash of the Embraer Legacy aircraft.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was listed among passengers on board.

The committee said the case was based on Article 263 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, which involves the violation of the rules of traffic safety and operation of air transport.

An investigation team is on the way to the scene, it added. “All the necessary forensic examinations will be appointed, a set of investigative actions will be carried out to establish the causes of the crash.”

Russian aviation authority launches special commission to investigate plane crash

The Russian state aviation authority Rosaviation says that a specially created commission “has begun investigating the circumstances and causes of the accident with the Embraer-135 aircraft, which occurred on August 23 in the Tver region.”

The authority’s statement said the plane belonged to MNT-Aero LLC, which specializes in business transportation.

“According to preliminary data, there were seven passengers and three crew members on board the aircraft, which flew on the Moscow-St. Petersburg route,” the authority noted.

“The Commission of the Federal Air Transport Agency is starting initial actions at the scene of the accident, and has also begun collecting factual materials on the training of the crew, the technical condition of the aircraft, the meteorological situation on the flight route, the work of dispatch services and ground radio equipment,” the statement added.

“At this stage of the investigation, specialists will also have to search for on-board means of objective control for their subsequent decoding and analysis of the records of the “black box,” the authority continued.

Wagner chief listed among passengers on board crashed plane: Russian state media

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is listed among passengers on board a plane that crashed north of Moscow, according to Russian state media.

The official Russian news agency TASS reported the Federal Air Transport Agency has launched an investigation into the crash of an Embraer aircraft, which occurred in the Tver region north-east of Moscow on Wednesday.

“An investigation has been launched into the crash of the Embraer aircraft, which occurred tonight in the Tver region. According to the list of passengers, among them is the name and surname of Yevgeny Prigozhin,” the department noted.

Flight data showed an Embraer Legacy registered to Prigozhin at a cruising altitude over the Tver region after departing a Moscow airport, before data transmission of speed and altitude stopped.

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