Russia admits ‘deliberate wrongdoing’ among possible causes of Prigozhin plane crash

The scene of the plane crash on August 23  (TELEGRAM/ @grey_zone/AFP via Get)
The scene of the plane crash on August 23 (TELEGRAM/ @grey_zone/AFP via Get)

The Kremlin says “deliberate wrongdoing” is among possible causes of the plane crash that killed mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin last week.

Speaking to reporters during his daily conference call on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov noted “different versions” of what happened exist and “are being considered”, including “let’s put this way, deliberate wrongdoing”.

The business jet reportedly carrying Mr Prigozhin - founder and leader of the private military force Wagner - and his top lieutenants, crashed halfway between Moscow and St Petersburg last Wednesday, killing all 10 people on board.

Mr Prigozhin, 62, was confirmed dead by Russian authorities after genetic analysis of the bodies.

The Kremlin has rejected claims that it was to blame for the crash.

But Mr Prigozhin has been decribed as Russia experts as a “dead man walking” since an aborted armed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, involving a planned march on Moscow, which he led back in June.

US and other Western officials long expected Putin to go after Prigozhin, despite promising to drop charges in a deal that ended the June 23-24 mutiny.

The crash occurred exactly two months after the short-lived armed rebellion, which posed the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority in his 23-year rule.

Portrait of Yevgeny Prigozhin at a street memorial near the Kremlin (AP)
Portrait of Yevgeny Prigozhin at a street memorial near the Kremlin (AP)

Mr Prigozhin’s supporters claimed on pro-Wagner messaging app channels that the plane was deliberately downed and offered different theories for how.

“I don’t know for a fact what happened but I’m not surprised,” US President Joe Biden said following the crash.

Mr Peskov on Wednesday urged reporters to wait until the ongoing probe by the Russian Investigative Committee is concluded, and said there cannot be an international investigation into the crash.

The committee said last week it has opened a criminal case on charges of flight safety violation - a standard charge used in plane crash investigations in Russia when there is no immediate reason to suspect foul play.

Mr Prigozhin was buried in his hometown of St Petersburg, in a private ceremony that was shrouded in secrecy until Tuesday evening, when the mercenary leader’s spokespeople revealed the location of his grave.

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the leader would not be attending Prigozhin’s funeral.

Mr Putin remained silent for nearly 24 hours after the crash. The following day he sent his condolences to the families of all the victims.

He described Mr Prigozhin, whose soldiers fought in Ukraine, as a “talented person” who “made serious mistakes in life”.

Mr Prigozhin led the rebellion against the top two generals of the Russian armed forces.