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Russia Rejects International Probe into Prigozhin's Fatal Plane Crash

By Vusala Abbasova August 31, 2023


A handout photograph taken and released by Russian Investigative Committee on Wednesday shows rescuers working at the site of a plane crash near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region. / AFP-JIJI

Russia will not investigate under international rules the tragic crash of a Brazil-manufactured Embraer jet that resulted in the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of Wagner Group.

Moscow conveyed its decision to the Brazilian Center for Investigation and Prevention of Aeronautical Accidents (CENIPA) earlier this week, noting that it will refrain from an international investigation “at the moment”.

“They are not obliged, only recommended to do that,” Marcelo Moreno, director of CENIPA, told Reuters in response to an email asking about the possibility of such a probe. “If they say they are going to open the investigation and invite Brazil, we will participate from afar.”

Prigozhin was onboard a Brazilian-made Embraer Legacy 600 when the plane crashed north of Moscow last week. Moscow reported that all ten passengers, including Dmitry Utkin, the alleged founder of the Wagner Group, lost their lives in the incident.

The crash occurred two months after Prigozhin staged a brief mutiny against Russia’s leadership.

In late June, Wagner troops, led by Prigozhin, seized control of key military facilities in Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh, two cities located near the Ukrainian border. Prigozhin demanded an audience with Russia’s Defense Minister and top general, threatening to blockade Rostov and advance towards Moscow if his demands were not met.

Wagner’s march came to a halt when Prigozhin abruptly announced that his mercenaries would return to their base camps, citing a desire to prevent Russian bloodshed.

In a surprising twist, the Kremlin announced that Prigozhin was to leave Russia for Belarus, putting an end to an armed insurrection that posed a significant threat to the ruling authority. The deal, reportedly facilitated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, ensured Prigozhin’s immunity from prosecution and mandated his relocation to Belarus in the near future.

Prigozhin, in turn, said he had never intended a "coup" against Putin and had merely been seeking "justice" for his Wagner soldiers in their conflict with Shoigu and Russia's military leadership.

Prigozhin played one of key roles in what Russia calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, before launching a short-lived insurrection against both the Russian military and President Vladimir Putin.

Prigozhin, a close ally of President Putin, was a co-founder of the Wagner Group in 2014, alongside Russian military officer Utkin, following Russia's intervention in Crimea during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

The Wagner Group leader was buried in St. Petersburg, his hometown, in a private ceremony that was shrouded in secrecy until Tuesday evening, when his spokespeople revealed the location of his grave.

Speaking to the reporters on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that “different versions” of what happened exist and “are being considered” by Russian investigators, including the “deliberate wrongdoing.”

He urged journalists to wait for the completion of the investigation by Russia’s Investigative Committee and said that there could be no international investigations.