Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hinted Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was behind the mysterious crash in Russia on Aug. 23 of the business jet carrying Wagner mercenary company boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is through to have been killed.
Speaking to journalists in Kyiv on Ukrainian Independence Day, Zelenskyy also denied that Ukraine had anything to do with the crash of Prigozhin's plane, news agency Interfax-Ukraine reported.
"We have nothing to do with it. Everyone understands who is involved," Zelenskyy said.
An Embraer-135 plane crashed in Russia's Tver Oblast on Aug. 23. Russian media reported that it belonged Prigozhin. Russian Telegram news channels spread various versions of the cause of the crash, including a strike by an S-300 air defense missile or an explosion on board.
Late in the evening, the Russian Air Transport Agency confirmed that Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin (Prigozhin's deputy, whose call sign “Wagner” was used to name the company) were on board the jet. The incident occurred exactly two months after the start of Wagner’s failed "mutiny" against the Russian government in late June.
In addition to them, the bodies of eight other people were found at the site. According to media reports, they included close associates of Prigozhin and participants in the war in Syria, as well as the plane’s three crew members.
Russian journalist Andrei Zakharov said Prigozhin and Wagner's "command staff" were returning from Africa. Meanwhile, the Russian news outlet Agentstvo reported that Prigozhin boarded his plane only in Moscow.
The cause of the crash is unknown. According to the Baza Telegram news channel, the pilots did not inform air traffic controllers about any emergency. Russian Telegram channels mentioned various possible causes – two air defense missiles hitting the plane by mistake or a terrorist attack on board.
Russian propaganda media reported that one theory is that an explosive device was planted in the plane’s landing gear compartment.
At the time of the crash, Russian leader Putin was in Kursk Oblast attending a concert dedicated to the "80th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Kursk".
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