Head of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin left the Southern Military District headquarters on June 24, 2023 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.
Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is presumed dead after his business jet crashed on Wednesday.
Prigozhin, who was ousted after a failed mutiny, was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
Kremlin insiders told Meduza that they were baffled over why he was still doing business in Russia.
Kremlin insiders are baffled over why Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was flying around Russia just two months after being ousted by Vladimir Putin for trying to initiate an uprising.
Prigozhin is presumed dead after a private jet he was traveling on crashed in the Tver region outside of Moscow on Wednesday, Russian state media outlet TASS reported.
The plane, which had seven passengers and three crew members on board, was traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg, TASS added.
A person close to Putin, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Meduza that Prigozhin was in the capital on Wednesday to meet with Moscow officials about his long-time catering business, Concord Catering, which has previously received lucrative government contracts.
Insider was unable to independently verify this information.
Two sources close to the Kremlin said they were surprised that Prigozhin continued to have business in Russia even after the failed mutiny, with one insider telling Meduza: “Why would he need catering contracts here, and with such risks?”
Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries initiated a short-lived mutiny against the Russian defense ministry exactly two months ago, in an effort to oust top-level military officials.
But the mutiny failed, and Prigozhin, who had spent months publicly criticizing Moscow’s military strategy in Ukraine, was apparently exiled to Belarus.
Prigozhin seemed to spend much of the last two months traveling between St. Petersburg and Moscow and — according to a video message he released earlier this week — even appeared to take a trip to Africa, where Wagner troops have had a presence in several countries.
It is unclear how exactly the plane carrying Prigozhin and nine others crashed on Wednesday, though security officials and Soviet experts have said they believe Putin likely ordered the assassination out of revenge for the mutiny.
Ian Petchenik of Flightradar24, which tracks flight data, told Reuters that everything looked normal with the plane until it made a “sudden downward vertical” motion, plummeting more than 8,000 feet from its cruising altitude of 28,000 within approximately 30 seconds.
“Whatever happened, happened quickly,” Petchenik told Reuters.
Former MI6 leader, Sir John Sawers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Thursday that a device could have also been on board that “brought the plane down suddenly.”