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Little will change in Russia’s war in Ukraine

Even if confirmed, Prigozhin’s death is unlikely to have an effect on Russia’s war in Ukraine, where his forces fought some of the fiercest battles over the last 18 months.

His troops pulled back from front-line action after capturing Bakhmut, a city in the eastern Donetsk region, in late May. Bakhmut had been the subject of arguably the bloodiest battles in the entire war, with the Russian forces struggling to seize it for months.

Crash comes exactly two months after Prigozhin’s march on Moscow

Today’s fatal crash north of Moscow occurred two months to the day since Prigozhin’s June 23 mutiny attempt.

In the months leading up to his revolt, Prigozhin mocked Russian leaders’ incompetence in Ukraine before alleging that his fighters had been struck and vowing revenge. Following his threat, made on Telegram, the Federal Security Service urged members of the Wagner Group to distance themselves from their leader.

But the march on Moscow ended nearly as quickly as it erupted. Prigozhin ordered his forces to stand down and retreat roughly 36 hours later.

Although Prigozhin’s rebellion was short-lived, it appeared to damage Putin’s reign on Russia. CIA Director William Burns said last month that the rebellion reignited questions “about Putin’s judgment, about his relative detachment from events and about his indecisiveness.”

The rebellion represented “the most direct assault on the Russian state in Vladimir Putin’s 23 years in power,” Burns said.

Emergency personnel work at the plane wreckage site

Smoke rises as a plane wreckage burns near the village of Kuzhenkino
The plan crashed north of Moscow.@grey_zone via Telegram / AFP via Getty Images
Worker at the site of a plane crash near the village of Kuzhenkino, Russia
Ten people were on board. Russian Investigative Committee / AFP via Getty Images

Prigozhin appeared to give first video address in months earlier this week

Prigozhin on Monday appeared to give his first video address since the mutiny that shook the Kremlin two months ago. The 41-second clip was published by several Telegram channels affiliated with Wagner.

A person who appears to be Prigozhin is seen in military fatigues and a bulletproof vest featuring the Wagner logo, standing in a desert-like area. He vows to make Africa “more free” and “Russia even greater on every continent.”

NBC News was not able to verify the video’s authenticity, as well as when or where it was shot. 

Former Russia ambassador McFaul: Everyone but Prigozhin knew revenge was coming

Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said it seemed like everyone but Prigozhin saw this coming.

“Prigozhin humiliated Putin with his mutiny,” McFaul posted to X. “Everyone but Prigozhin seemed to understand that Putin would eventually seek revenge. Looks like he did today.”

NBC News has not confirmed reports of Prigozhin’s death.

McFaul added, however, that the move is not necessarily one that implies Putin’s reign over Russia is secure.

“But if you have to kill your buddies, is that really a sign of strength?” he added.

Others have changed names to Prigozhin to create confusion, expert warns

Keir Giles, a Russia expert with the international affairs think tank Chatham House, urged caution about reports of Prigozhin’s death.

He said “multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, as part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels.”

“Let’s not be surprised if he pops up shortly in a new video from Africa,” Giles said.

Remains of all 10 passengers found, local media reports

The remains of all 10 people aboard the crashed jet have been found, Russia’s Interfax news agency has reported, citing emergency services in the country.

“Search operation completed,” the agency said.

Flight had ‘dramatic descent’ in final moments, data shows

The flight that reportedly carried Prigozhin and nine others lost altitude suddenly before crashing north of Moscow today, data purportedly shows.

Flightradar24, a service that tracks publicly broadcast flight information, has published data of the aircraft in its final moments. The plane did not transmit its position but it sent out other data, including altitude and speed, and experienced a “dramatic descent,” the site said.

Video purportedly of the crash also shows the plane heading almost directly downward before hitting the ground.

Head of Zelenskyy’s office posts AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’

The head of the Ukrainian president’s office has posted an audio link on his Telegram channel to AC/DC’s song “Highway to Hell.”

Andriy Yermak did not leave any other comment.

U.S. allies comparing assessments on Prigozhin’s death

American and European allies are comparing assessments on Prigozhin’s death to get clarification on today’s events, a Western official has confirmed to NBC News.

The official, who did not want to be named so they could speak freely, added that if the reports are true, it had been largely anticipated.  

Smoke rises over a plane wreckage near the village of Kuzhenkino, Russia
Smoke rises over a plane wreckage near the village of Kuzhenkino, Russia.@grey_zone via Telegram / AFP via Getty Images

Prigozhin ‘won’t be missed in Belarus,’ opposition leader says

Yevgeny Prigozhin “won’t be missed in Belarus,” according to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a Belarusian politician who is the primary rival to the country’s Russia-aligned President Alexander Lukashenko.

“He was a murderer & should be remembered as such,” Tsikhanouskaya wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“His death might dismantle Wagner’s presence in Belarus, reducing the threat to our nation & neighbors,” she added.

Video shows fiery wreckage of plane

A video shared widely on social media shows the burning wreckage of the plane that crashed in a field in Russia’s Tver region today.

“Here are the wings it seems,” the person filming the video near near the village of Kuzhenkino says in Russian; “795 is written on the wing.”

Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has been previously linked to a plane with the registration number RA-02795.

NBC News has not confirmed he was on board the plane.

Russia releases list of passengers purportedly on flight, includes Prigozhin

Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport isted “Evgeny Prigozhin” as among the 10 it said died today in a crash north of Moscow.

The list posted on Telegram included the names of six other passengers, including Dmitry Utkin, another senior Wagner Group official, as well as three crew members.

NBC News cannot independently verify that Prigozhin or Utkin were on the flight or died in the crash.

A plane falls from the sky near the village of Kuzhenkino, Russia
A plane falls from the sky near the village of Kuzhenkino, Russia, on Aug. 23, 2023.@grey_zone via Telegram / AFP via Getty Images

Wagner-associated Telegram channel claims Prigozhin is dead

A Telegram channel associated with the Wagner mercenary group is claiming that Yevgeny Prigozhin is dead.

NBC News has not been able to independently verify reports of the Wagner group chief’s death, and Russian officials have not commented on it yet.

“The head of the Wagner Group, Hero of Russia, a true patriot of his Motherland, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, died as a result of actions by traitors of Russia,” according to a post from the Grey Zone on Telegram.

The account with more than 550,000 subscribers has shared a lot of material related to Prigozhin.

Prigozhin ‘signed a special death warrant for himself,’ Zelenskyy adviser says

Wagner chief Prigozhin “signed a special death warrant for himself” when he brokered a deal with Belarusian President Alexander Luskashenko and called off his march on Moscow, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said today.

NBC News has not independently verified Prigozhin’s death.

“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,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

“Beware! Disloyalty equals death,” he added.

Russian officials: All 10 people on plane killed

Russia’s main federal investigating authority said all 10 people on the Embraer Legacy plane that went down today north of Moscow were likely dead.

“A business jet en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg crashed in the Tver region. Ten people on board were killed, according to preliminary information,” the Investigating Committee said via Telegram.

Biden: ‘There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind’

President Joe Biden weighed in on reports about Prigozhin’s death when reporters lobbed questions at him today as he was leaving a Pilates studio in Tahoe, California, where he is on vacation.

“I don’t know for a fact what happened but I’m not surprised,” Biden said when asked for his reaction.

“There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind,” he added. “But I don’t know enough to know the answer. I’ve been working out for the last hour and a half.”

‘Specially established commission’ to investigate crash, Kremlin says

A “specially established commission” has started “investigating the circumstances and causes of the accident,” the Russian Federal Agency for Air Transport said in a statement posted to its Telegram channel.  

“According to preliminary data, there were seven passengers and three crew members on board the aircraft, which was en-rote from Moscow to St. Petersburg,” the statement said.

At the scene, investigators have “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 said.

They will also search for the black box recorder, it added.

‘If confirmed, no one should be surprised,’ NSC spokesperson says 

If Prigozhin was indeed on the flight that went down north of Moscow, it should not come as a surprise, a National Security Council spokesperson said.

“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,” Adrienne Watson said.

Video shows plane crashing in Russia’s Tver region

Video posted to social media shows a plane crashing near the village of Kuzhenkino, in Russia’s Tver region.

“Where will it blow up? Where did it fall?” a female voice can be heard saying in Russian as the aircraft spirals to the ground. “Look, you can see pieces falling here.”

“Bloody hell there’s a lot of smoke. And there you can see the pieces still falling,” they added.

NBC News has geolocated the video near the village of Kuzhenkino, in the Tver region, but cannot independently confirm that Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the plane.

Blinken: ‘If I were Mr. Prigozhin, I would remain very concerned’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell last month that he would be “very concerned” if he were Yevgeny Prigozhin.

During a fireside chat at the Aspen Security Forum hosted by Mitchell, Blinken said the mercenary chief had “made a direct challenge” to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority.

“NATO has an ‘open door’ policy; Russia has an open windows policy, and he needs to be very focused on that,” Blinken said.

8 bodies found at crash site, state media reports

Eight bodies have been found at the site where the plane came down, the state-owned news agency Ria Novosti reported.

The report did not identify the victims.

Russian Ministry of Emergency Services says a plane crashed

The Russian Ministry of Emergency Services confirmed in a statement that a private Embraer Legacy aircraft crashed while flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg, without saying whether Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board.

The jet had “10 people on board, including three crew members” when it came down, it said in a statement.

It added that emergency services were “conducting search operations.”

Prigozhin’s name on doomed plane’s manifest, Ria reports

Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport has listed Prigozhin’s name among the seven passengers on the plane that went down in the Tver region, state-run Ria Novosti state news agency reported on Wednesday.

“According to the Federal Air Transport Agency, an investigation has been launched into the Embraer crash,” it reported. “Among the passengers is the name and surname of Evgeny Prigozhin.”

The agency had launched an investigation into the crash, Tass reported.

Russian officials were not immediately available for comment.

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