Russian President Vladimir Putin provided the first major update in the investigation into the plane crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The probe, being carried out by Russia, was launched after a private jet with a total of 10 people aboard including Mr Prigozhin and two other leading figures of the Wagner Group crashed down in the afternoon of August 23.
Speaking at the Valdai Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the Russian leader claimed to have been told by the head of the investigation committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, that “fragments of hand grenades” were found in the bodies of those aboard the jet.
While he suggested the plane was blown up from inside, Putin didn’t provide any more details about how grenades could have found their way on board and detonated while the plane was mid-air.
Sharing details about the probe despite investigators having yet to speak publicly about their search, Putin seemingly hit out at Western claims the Kremlin may have played a role in the crash, as he said “no external impact” has been found on the jet.
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What did Putin say after Prigozhin died?
Vladimir Putin made his first public comment on Yevgeny Prigozhin the day after the plane crash claimed his life.
During a meeting with the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, the Russian president said: “First of all, I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of all the victims, this is always a tragedy.
“Indeed, if they were there, it seems … preliminary information suggests that Wagner Group employees were also on board.”
Speaking about the Wagner leader, he added: “He was a man of difficult fate, and he made serious mistakes in life, and he achieved the results needed both for himself and when I asked him about it – for a common cause, as in these last months.”
Investigation is still ongoing, Putin notes
While he disclosed some of the initial findings of the probe into the crash, Vladimir Putin noted the investigation is still ongoing and stopped short of saying what caused the crash.
Nevertheless, his statement appeared to hint the plane was brought down by a grenade explosion, possibly set off by accident by one of the people aboard the plane.
Who was Yevgeny Prigozhin?
Yevgeny Prigozhin was the leader of Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary company which took part in campaigns in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
The mercenary leader had been dubbed Putin’s Chef thanks to his catering company in Moscow serving, among other clients, the Kremlin.
While he remained a close ally of Putin for years, cracks started to appear in their relationship at the beginning of the year.
While Wagner men were fighting to conquer the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Mr Prigozhin accused the Russian defence leadership of being inadequate and not sending enough ammunition and weapons to those on the frontline.
The mercenary leader stressed multiple times he was not criticising Putin, but it is unlikely his blistering words sounded pleasant in the Kremlin.
On June 23, two months before his death, Mr Prigozhin staged a mutiny, entering with tanks in the Russian city of Rostov and sending his men on a march to Moscow.
But the uprising was short-lived and blocked by the intervention of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered a deal between Putin and Mr Prigozhin.
The Wagner leader and many of his men retreated to Belarus in the following weeks, although Mr Prigozhin is known to have travelled to Russia multiple times during the months prior to his death.
Bodies should have been tested for drugs and alcohol – Putin
Speaking in Sochi, where he attended the Valdai Discussion Club, Vladimir Putin appeared to criticise the investigators leading the probe into the plane crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The Russian leader said he believed the investigators should have carried out alcohol and drug tests on the bodies found on the crash site.
In what appears an attempt to denigrate the late Wagner chief, the president said some five kilograms of cocaine were found during searches at Mr Prigozhin’s office in St Petersburg carried out after the June mutiny.
Putin seemingly denies involvement in crash
Vladimir Putin seemingly hit out at allegations the Kremlin was involved in the crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin in August.
He said: “There was no external impact on the plane – this is already an established fact.”
A US intelligence assessment carried out after the incident concluded that the crash was caused by an intentional explosion.
However, allegations Vladimir Putin may be behind the death of Mr Prigozhin were slammed by the Kremlin’s spokesman as a “complete lie”.
What did Putin say about Prigozhin’s plane crash?
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the bodies of those who were aboard the jet that crashed on the afternoon of August 23, including Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, had “fragments” of grenades.
Speaking in Sochi, he said: “Fragments of hand grenades were found in the bodies of those killed in the crash.”
Good afternoon from London. I’m Alice Scarsi, I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments on the new claims made by Vladimir Putin on the death of the leader of the Wagner Group.
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