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Russian genetic testing confirms Wagner leader Prigozhin died in plane crash

A portrait of the owner of private military company Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin lays at an informal street memorial near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.
A portrait of the owner of private military company Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin lays at an informal street memorial near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. Copyright Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews
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Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed two months after he mounted a daylong mutiny against Russia's military. President Vladimir Putin decried it as “treason.” The brief uprising posed the biggest challenge to Putin’s authority within his 23-year rule.

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Russia’s Investigative Committee said Sunday that it has confirmed that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the mercenary Wagner group, was killed in a plane crash.

Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said in a statement that forensic testing identified all 10 bodies recovered at the site of Wednesday's crash and the findings “conform to the manifest” of the plane. 

The statement didn't offer any details as to what might have caused the crash.

Russia’s civil aviation authority earlier this week said Prigozhin, along with some of his top lieutenants, were on the list of the passengers and crew members on board the plane.

The private jet carrying Prigozhin and his entourage crashed late on Wednesday afternoon in the Tver region, north-west of Moscow, immediately raising suspicions of an assassination orchestrated at the highest level of Russian power.

Prigozhin was known for going to great lengths to keep himself secure while travelling, including by having Wagner members change their names to "Yevgeny Prigozhin" so it is unclear whether or not he is in fact on any given flight – hence the need for genetic testing to confirm the body is his.

The Wagner group is at the forefront of Russia's operations in multiple countries beyond Europe, particularly in Africa. He himself was a longtime associate of Vladimir Putin, but became an outspoken public critic of the Russian military's failures in Ukraine.

This summer, he briefly led a violent mutiny against the Kremlin. Wagner forces overran a Russian base at the Ukrainian border before setting off toward Moscow, apparently intending to unseat defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

However, only hours into the rebellion, a deal was struck under which Prigozhin and other Wagner members would leave Russia for Belarus in exchange for criminal charges against them being dropped.

Since then, Wagner has continued to play a central role in Ukraine as Russia continues to struggle with military recruitment and massive casualties.

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