Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane was ‘downed by Russian air defence missile’ – claim

Wagner Group mercenary cries at shrine for Yevgeny Prigozhin

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane may have been shot down by a Russian air defence missile, a commentator has suggested.

Prigozhin is suspected to have been among 10 Wagner group members who died after their plane crashed en route from Moscow on Wednesday, August 23.

But, while they have pledged to investigate the incident, Russian officials are yet to confirm how the aircraft was downed mid-flight.

Igor Sushko, a Ukrainian-born American commentator, reported a “leak” that shrapnel was found in the corpses of the plane’s passengers.

He claimed the shrapnel was “consistent” with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile.

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Taking to Twitter, Mr Sushko said the shrapnel suggested the plane was targeted with a Russian S-300 air defence missile.

He warned that the Kremlin would build a different narrative that would pin the blame on Prigozhin’s pilot.

He said: “Expect the Kremlin narrative to blame one of Prigozhin’s pilots, Artem Stepanov, who had ‘access’ to the plane and ‘planted a bomb’.”

These claims have not been independently verified, and Mr Sushko, a professional racecar driver, is not a Ukrainian government official nor a member of the intelligence community.

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He is also the only person to issue these claims so far and previously reported that Prigozhin and Wagner founder Dmitry Utkin were identified among corpses collected from the crash site.

Only Russian authorities have claimed the pair died, with national intelligence agencies yet to officially confirm the Wagner chief’s death.

In its latest briefing, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said there is “not yet definitive proof” that he has died.

The MoD update did concede that it is “highly likely” the mercenary leader died, however.

The briefing stated: “There is not yet definitive proof that Prigozhin was onboard, and he is known to exercise exceptional security measures. However, it is highly likely that he is indeed dead.”

The MoD added that the death would cause a “leadership vacuum” that will be “compounded by the reports that founder and field commander Dimitry Utkin and Logistics chief Valery Chekalov also died.”

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