Questions surface on circumstances surrounding Prigozhin plane crash

The jet belonged to the head of Wagner Group, but it's still unclear what brought it down and whether Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board.
Posted at 3:29 PM, Aug 25, 2023

The Pentagon now says an explosion downed the plane that's believed to have been carrying a former ally-turned-critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

But was it a missile? Or a bomb?

There are some clues we can piece together about the crash that seemingly killed Yevgeny Prigozhin, including eyewitness video shot from the ground.

The missile theory centers around some contrails that can be seen in the sky as the plane falls. The person heard in the video also claims they heard two separate explosions.

The first could be the launch of an anti-air missile. The second sound could be it impacting with the plane.

Some have also pointed to what looks like holes visible in one of the videos showing the plane's wreckage — another possible clue that a missile may have intercepted the plane.

Russia denies role in plane crash in which Wagner leader presumed dead
Memorial of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Russia denies role in plane crash in which Wagner leader presumed dead

A preliminary U.S. intelligence assessment concluded the plane was downed Wednesday by an intentional explosion.


However, a single low-quality video isn't really enough evidence to support that theory.

An anonymous Western official previously told the Financial Times that an anti-aircraft missile system brought down the plane, but didn't provide any evidence. And it now appears more likely that a bomb had been placed on board the plane. 

A Telegram channel close to Russian security services floated the idea, saying a crate of expensive wine was loaded onto the plane at the last minute, after bomb-sniffing dogs had already come by. The idea being: A bomb was hidden inside that wine. 

Another Telegram channel claims investigators are trying to speak with everyone who had access to the hangar where Prigozhin's jet was being held. But given Russia's penchant for obscuring the truth, it may be a while before we really know what happened. 

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Membes of the Wagner Group military company sit atop of a tank on a street in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

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However, it's still possible that Prigozhin wasn't even on the plane after all. His name was on the passenger list, but so far, we haven't seen any evidence that his body was found at the site of the crash. 

Meanwhile, Putin released a video message confirming the crash, saying Prigozhin has had a difficult path and made serious mistakes in his life. 

If he is dead, the loss of Prigozhin would be the conclusion of a sweeping career for a man who operated around the globe and was the leader of a mutiny that nearly reached Moscow.