What to know about the plane crash
- In his first public acknowledgment of Yevgeny Prigozhin's presumed death, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Wagner mercenary chief was a "talented businessman" who "made serious mistakes in his life."
- Prigozhin, who led an aborted mutiny in June, was listed as a passenger on a jet that crashed north of Moscow yesterday.
- Russian officials said all 10 people on the private aircraft were killed, and a Telegram channel associated with the Wagner Group said Prigozhin and his top lieutenant were among the dead.
- Videos and flight radar document the dramatic final moments of the flight, which showed no sign of any problem until a plunge to the ground that spread debris for miles.
Intelligence points to sabotage, U.S. officials say
Two U.S. officials told NBC News that intelligence gathered so far points to sabotage as the cause of the plane crash that reportedly killed Yevgeny Prigozhin and others near Moscow yesterday.
One of the officials said a leading theory is that the aircraft was downed by an explosive on board, but they do not have enough information to say that with certainty.
Department of Defense press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said nothing thus far indicates a surface-to-air missile took down the plane and that such reports are inaccurate.
Pentagon: Prigozhin likely killed but no evidence of surface-to-air missile
Yevgeny Prigozhin was most likely killed but there is no evidence that the plane he was on was taken down by a missile, according to U.S. Defense officials.
“Our initial assessment based on a variety of factors is it was likely Prigohzin was killed,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon's press secretary, said at a briefing.
He also said defense officials have no information to indicate that a surface-to-air missile took down the plane that Russian officials say was carrying senior Wagner members, and assessed press reports about that to be inaccurate.
Kremlin likely sought Wagner's destruction, U.S. think tank says
There is a strong likelihood that the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Kremlin were behind the plane crash that presumably killed Prigozhin, according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.
“The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Kremlin have been destroying the Wagner private military company (PMC) and weakening Prigozhin’s authority since the rebellion — and the assassination of Wagner’s top leadership was likely the final step to eliminate Wagner as an independent organization,” the Washington-based organization said in a report.
Prigozhin “was likely attempting to counter the Russian MoD’s and the Kremlin’s destruction of Wagner,” it said, adding that Wagner’s future is now uncertain.
Crashed jet believed to have carried top Wagner officials apart from Prigozhin
The official manifest for the jet that crashed and is presumed to have killed Yevgeny Prigozhin included the names of a number of senior Wagner officials, according to a Russian opposition-linked research organization.
Among the names on the manifest is Valeriy Yevgenyevich Chekalov, who ran businesses linked to the mercenary organization, according to the Dossier Center, a London-based investigative group funded by former Russian oligarch-turned-opposition-figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Also listed is Evgeniy Makaryan, who joined Wagner in 2016, and Sergey Propustin, who fought in the second Chechen war and joined Wagner in 2015, the Dossier Center said.
Dmitry Utkin, reputed to have been Prigozyn’s operational leader, was also on the plane, according to the manifest.
Russian officials said all 10 people on the plane — seven passengers and three crew — died in the crash.
Plane 'fell to the ground like a Coke bottle,' aviation expert says
The plane presumed to be carrying Prigozhin “fell to the ground like a Coke bottle,” according to Jeff Guzzetti, an aviation expert and NBC News contributor.
Despite rampant speculation about what caused the crash, he said holes in the wreckage could have been caused by the structure pulling away from rivets or screws, among other things.
But Guzzetti said that “new jets like this don’t come apart like this unless something bad happened.”
He added the “more compelling evidence is the fact that the aircraft clearly came apart in flight following some sort of catastrophic event at altitude. It literally fell to the ground like a Coke bottle … totally out of control and missing wing parts.”
Witness says he heard a bang before plane fell
Residents of a village Kuzhenkino said they heard a bang before the plane presumed to be carrying Prigozhin fell to the ground.
“I heard an explosion or a bang,” Vitaly Stepenok, 72, told Reuters. “Usually, if an explosion happens on the ground then you get an echo, but it was just a bang and I looked up and saw white smoke.”
He added that a “wing flew off in one direction,” before the plane “glided down on one wing.”
Investigation into crash will take time, Putin says
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the official investigation into the crash that is believed to have killed Prigozhin will take time.
After expressing his "sincere condolences to the families of all the victims" during a meeting broadcast on Russian television, Putin said that the head of the investigative committee had reported to him this morning.
The probe "will be conducted in full and brought to a conclusion ... Let’s see what the investigators will have to say in the nearest time,” he added.
Satellite image shows crash site
Putin comments on Prigozhin's death for first time
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent condolences to the relatives of Prigozhin, who has been listed among those killed in a plane crash yesterday.
It was Putin’s first public acknowledgment of the crash.
“I’ve known Prigozhin for a long time, since the early '90s. He was a man of complicated fate and he made serious mistakes in his life,” Putin said during a meeting broadcast on Russian television. “He was a talented man, a talented businessman.”
“He worked not only in our country ... but also abroad. In Africa in particular,” Putin added.
Retribution will be 'inevitable,' Russian lawmaker says
Retribution will be “inevitable,” a Russian lawmaker said Thursday in an apparent reference to mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Although he did not mention Prigozhin by name, Sergei Mironov, who leads the state-backed A Just Russia party, said in a Telegram post that “the haters of our Motherland have a big holiday.”
But had added that, "Scum, wherever you sit now, retribution will be inevitable."
The Kremlin has remained silent on the crash or Prigozhin's fate.
Videos and flight radar document the plane's final moments
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rise owed much to videos that spread rapidly through Russian social media and nationalist circles: charting his feud with the Kremlin’s military leaders, then showcasing his armed revolt against them — all carried by a gust of intrigue and anger.
On Wednesday those same channels were filled with video that appeared to document what may have been the Wagner mercenary chief’s final, fiery plummet into a field outside Moscow.
‘Putin’s Russia: deaths and dubious suicides,’ German foreign minister says
Prigozhin crash sends a signal to Russia's elite — and the world
It was both shocking and predictable.
Two months to the day after Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a brief armed rebellion that threatened the Kremlin’s authority, the mercenary chief and some of his top lieutenants were listed aboard a plane that crashed with no survivors.
The truth of Wednesday’s incident may never be widely known. But the signal — to Russian elites and to the world — was viewed by many analysts as blazingly clear in the field outside Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to show his rule remains unshaken, and no challenge will go unpunished.
Crash a case of 'classical tyranny,' Putin’s former speechwriter says
Russian President Vladimir Putin will destroy anyone “who refuses to unconditionally obey,” according to his former speechwriter.
“Previously, the ‘patriotic’ public could indulge itself with the illusion that the regime ruthlessly destroys outsiders, but in relation to its own it is more just, more honest, more loyal,” Abbas Gallyamov wrote on the Telegram messaging app Thursday.
“Now it has become obvious that only Putin himself is truly his own, for everyone else his rules are the same: he who refuses to unconditionally obey will be destroyed,” added Gallyamov, who now works as a political analyst. “Classical tyranny without any ideologies.”
The Kremlin has not confirmed Prigozhin’s death, and it’s not clear if he was on the plane.
Russia's defense ministry says it scrambled fighter to intercept Norwegian plane
Russia’s defense ministry said Thursday it had scrambled an MIG-31 jet to intercept a Norwegian military plane over the Barents Sea near the two countries’ Arctic border, the second such incident in two days and the third this month.
In a statement, the ministry said the Norwegian plane had neared Russian airspace but then had moved away after the Russian jet approached.
Relations between Russia and Norway, a NATO member state which shares a short Arctic border with Russia, have deteriorated further since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
Revolt From Within: Watch NBC News doc on the rise of Wagner
Ukraine carries out 'special operation' in occupied Crimea
A "special operation" was carried out in Russian-occupied Crimea overnight by Ukraine’s navy and military intelligence, officials in Kyiv said Thursday.
In a post on Telegram, Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, said that “special units” landed on the western coast of the peninsula and “engaged in combat” with Russian forces.
“The state flag flew again in the Ukrainian Crimea,” the statement said, adding that the group left the fight without casualties.
NBC News was not able to verify Kyiv’s claim, but if confirmed, it would be a significant development, demonstrating Ukraine's ability to land on the peninsula, occupied by Russia since 2014.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow.
Wagner will become a bigger threat under Putin, Polish PM says
The Wagner Group will become an even bigger threat under Russian President Vladimir Putin's control, Poland's prime minister said today.
“The Wagner Group comes under Putin’s leadership. Let every one answer the question for themselves — will the threat be bigger or smaller? For me, that’s a rhetorical question.” Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.
Poland neighbors Russia's close ally Belarus, where Prigozhin and some of his fighters went into exile after leading a mercenary rebellion in June.
Russian state TV barely covers Prigozhin crash
While Russian social media was abuzz with speculation and theories about what happened to the plane crash linked to Prigozhin, Russian state TV barely mentioned the incident this morning.
A total of 35 seconds from a one-hour daily news show on Russia's state-run Channel One was devoted to the incident. Instead most of the rundown was dedicated to the war in Ukraine and the BRICS summit.
A newscast that aired before the show made no mention of the crash at all, but it did cover former President Donald Trump's expected surrender to authorities later today and his interview with Tucker Carlson.
There was slightly more airtime on the state-run Russia 1 channel, which did a live report from the scene of the crash and spent two minutes of the 25-minute show devoted to the incident.
Ukraine has 'nothing to do' with Prigozhin crash, Zelenskyy says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said today that Kyiv has "nothing to do" with the plane crash linked to Prigozhin.
“When Ukraine appealed to the countries of the world for airplanes, we did not have this in mind," Zelenskyy said during a news conference, getting a laugh from the audience, the Ukrainian news agency Suspeline reported.
"We have nothing to do with this situation, that’s for sure. I think everyone understands who does," he added.
At least 13 wounded in Russian attacks on Ukraine’s independence day
At least 13 people were wounded in Russian attacks on Ukraine today, local officials said, as Kyiv marked 32 years of independence from Moscow.
A Russian missile strike wounded 10 people in the central city of Dnipro and three people, including a child, were hurt in an attack on the southern city of Kherson.
Three of the victims in Dnipro were in hospital with moderate wounds, regional governor Serhiy Lysak reported, and a transport facility was damaged.
More than 10 other buildings including a bank, a hotel and an administrative building were damaged, he said.
It is 'no accident' focus is on the Kremlin: German foreign minister
It is “no accident” that focus swiftly turned to the Kremlin following the crash, Germany's foreign minister said today.
“We know this pattern in Putin’s Russia: deaths, dubious suicides, falls from windows, all which remain unclarified — that underlines a dictatorial power system that is built on violence,” Annalena Baerbock told a news conference.
She added that it was “no accident that the world immediately looks at the Kremlin when a disgraced former confidant of Putin suddenly, literally falls from the sky two months after he attempted a mutiny.”
China notes “reports” about the deadly crash
China has “noted relevant reports” about the plane crash and the presumed death of Prigozhin, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said today in a daily briefing.
Wang did not provide further explanation on the issue.
Following the mercenary rebellion in June, Beijing said that China believed it was a domestic issue, saying that it supported Russia to “maintain national stability” and “achieve development and prosperity.”
China has been reluctant to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but has also reiterated its support and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty.
France has 'reasonable doubts' about the plane crash
France said today it has “reasonable doubts” about the cause of the plane crash that is presumed to have killed Prigozhin.
“We don’t yet know the circumstances of this crash,” government spokesman Olivier Veran told France 2 television, according to Reuters, but “we can have some reasonable doubts.”
Asked about President Joe Biden’s remark that little “happens in Russia that Putin is not behind,” Veran said he agreed that “as a general rule, that’s a truth that can be established.”
Plane crash ‘demonstrative elimination’ by Putin: Zelenskyy adviser
The plane crash linked to Prigozhin was a “demonstrative elimination” of the once-insider who dared to challenge the Kremlin, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said today.
Speaking with Russia’s independent TV Rain channel, he said the incident was meant to serve as “intimidation” for a part of the Russian elite that’s “somewhat not loyal to Putin.”
Tumultuous times are coming for those in the Russian president’s inner circle, Podolyak speculated, because "Putin has demonstrated that he will question the loyalty of any member of his entourage, even those closest to him.”
Ukrainian officials have largely refrained from commenting on the incident, with Prigozhin's fate still officially unknown. NBC News has not confirmed whether the mercenary chief died in the crash.
Photo: A mercenary mourns Prigozhin outside Wagner office
A member of the Wagner mercenary group pays tribute to Yevgeny Prigozhin at a makeshift memorial in front of a Wagner office in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk today.
What does flight-tracking data show?
An Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet belonging to Prigozhin was known to have the serial number RA-02795.
That aircraft was last tracked at 11:20 a.m. ET yesterday, according to flightradar24, a flight tracker.
The aircraft showed no sign of any problem until a sudden drop, according to the data. The last few minutes were recorded as the plane underwent a series of ascents and descents of thousands of feet over 30 seconds, before its final plunge.
Photos: Vigil held outside former Wagner HQ in St. Petersburg
Flags and floral tributes were left outside the former PMC Wagner Center in St. Petersburg in the early hours of this morning, after Russian authorities said that the group's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was listed as a passenger on the jet that crashed yesterday.
Criminal investigation launched into the crash
A criminal investigation has been launched into the crash, Russia’s investigative committee said in a statement late yesterday.
The committee said it launched a criminal probe looking into possible violation of the rules of traffic safety and operation of air transport.
Investigators have been dispatched to the scene of the crash to establish possible causes, it added.
Plane fragment found miles from crash site
A fragment of the plane that crashed with Prigozhin listed as a passenger has been found more than 2 miles away from the site of the crash, the Russian state news agency RIA reported.
A chunk of the plane's tail was found near the entrance to a nearby village in the Tver region, the agency said, sitting just a few yards from a summer cottage of a local resident.
Another piece of debris was earlier found just over a mile from the crash site, according to RIA.
Putin addresses BRICS summit, does not mention Prigozhin or crash
Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the BRICS summit in Johannesburg by video link today, welcoming six new members who will join the bloc next year.
He did not mention yesterday's plane crash, and the Kremlin has yet to issue any official comment on the incident or Prigozhin's fate.
Ukraine celebrates second wartime independence day
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy celebrated Ukraine’s second wartime independence day today, hailing Ukrainians as “free people.”
“The day of the free, the strong, and the dignified. The day of equals,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
In a video along with the post, he sent congratulations and expressed gratitude to every Ukrainian.
This year marks Ukraine’s 32nd independence day and the second since Russia invaded its neighbor. There were no major events planned due to fears of possible Russian attacks.
Ukraine has so far been almost entirely silent on the plane crash in Russia.
Bodies removed from crash site, sent to morgue for forensic analysis
The bodies of the 10 people who authorities say died in a plane crash in Russia's Tver region were removed from the site of the crash and sent to a nearby morgue this morning, Russian media reported.
Photos and video shared by news agencies, and also by Russian media, showed bodies being taken from the site and then delivered in black vans to a morgue in the city of Tver for forensic medical examination.
There has so far been no official confirmation about exactly whose bodies have been found or identified.
Russia extends detention of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich
Hours after the crash that allegedly killed Prigozhin, American journalist Evan Gershkovich had his detention extended by a Moscow court for another three months.
Gershkovich is accused of espionage and has been in jail awaiting a trial since he was arrested in March. His detention was expiring Aug. 30, but he will now remain in jail until at least Nov. 30, according to the press service of the Lefortovo Court.
The United States and The Wall Street Journal, where he works, maintain he is innocent.
Gershkovich's arrest came amid a harsh crackdown on any dissent in the country amid the war in Ukraine, including severe restrictions on freedom of speech for domestic and foreign media.
Top Russian general 'fired' after vanishing in wake of Wagner mutiny
Hours before the plane crash, news about the fate of another senior Russian figure emerged from Russian state media.
Gen. Sergei Surovikin, a top general who has been missing from public view since the mercenary rebellion, was dismissed as head of the country’s aerospace forces, Russian state media reported yesterday.
The news followed months of speculation about Surovikin, who was known to have been close to Prigozhin.
Kremlin silent on fate of mercenary chief who challenged Putin
Prigozhin was listed as one of 10 people aboard the plane involved in yesterday's deadly crash north of Moscow, according to Russia's aviation authorities.
But the Kremlin itself, and most notably Russian President Vladimir Putin, have so far been silent on the dramatic incident.
The fate of the mercenary chief — once a close ally of Putin before he clashed with Moscow's military leadership and then launched his aborted mutiny — will now hang over Russia's elite.