From failed revolt to 'death': Timeline of Prigozhin's 'final' movements
Yevgeny Prigozhin, former hot dog seller turned ‘Putin’s chef’ turned mutinous militant leader, had quite the two months.
The Wagner Group leader, 62, not exactly pleased with how the Russian military has handled the Ukraine war, launched a brief, abortive mutiny in June.
On Wednesday, aviation officials listed him as a passenger on a plane that crashed 60 miles north of Moscow, killing all 10 on board.
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‘An investigation of the Embraer plane crash that happened in the Tver Region this evening was initiated,’ the Federal Agency for Air Transport of Russia said in a statement, the Russian news agency Tass reported.
‘According to the passenger list, first and last name of Yevgeny Prigozhin was included in this list.’
From leading one of the largest challenges to Vladimir Putin’s leadership in his 23 years in power to his apparent demise, here are how the last two months of Prigozhin’s life played out.
‘The evil borne by the country’s military leadership must be stopped,’ Prigozhin said in a voice recording on his Telegram account.
After years of supporting Putin, Prigozhin had increasingly begun to issue back-biting statements against his and his military’s leadership.
Across a series of social media posts, the fighter asked something that Kremlin officials have done everything to stop Russians from asking: Why was this war even started?
It didn’t exactly take long for Russian security forces to take notice of the Wagner chief’s musings.
The Federal Security Service, Moscow’s main intelligence agency, opened an investigation against Prigozhin for armed rebellion just after midnight.
Armoured vehicles began pulling up left, right and centre in Moscow as Putin braced for Prigozhin, who had just seized Rostov-on-Don and was marching to him.
And then it was over. In a dramatic turn, Belarusian president and Putin ally, Aleksandr Lukashenko, had hashed out a deal to stop Wagner’s advances and have the boss exiled to his country.
The Kremlin agreed to drop its ‘treason’ charges to avoid any ‘bloodshed’.
The days – months, rather – after the stand-off are mysterious, to say the least.
Lukashenko initially confirmed to state media Prigozhin had boarded a plane to Belarus from the Russian city of Rostov.
‘I see Prigozhin is already flying in on this plane,’ Lukashenko was quoted as saying by BELTA. ‘Yes, indeed, he is in Belarus today.’
Only days later, the Kremlin said Putin held a meeting with Prigozhin and his Wagner commanders in what was the first known contact between the two men.
The three-hour meeting saw Wagner leaders give their side of the story, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitri Peskov claimed, in what was seen as a chance to clear the air.
‘Putin heard out the commanders and proposed further employment options and further combat options,’ he said, adding Wagner pledged loyalty to the president.
While the warlord was meant to be in Belarus, Lukashenko made the almost blasé revelation that he no longer was.
‘As for Prigozhin, he’s in St Petersburg. He is not on the territory of Belarus,’ he said.
‘Where is Prigozhin this morning? Maybe he left for Moscow.’
Meanwhile, Russian security forces claimed to have found a cupboard full of wigs during a raid at Prigozhin‘s St Petersburg palace.
Federal Security Service (FSB) agents also found fake beards, forged passports, guns and ammo, a sledgehammer, gold bars, a stuffed alligator, and a framed photo allegedly showing the severed heads of his enemies.
But then the mercenary leader was soon seemingly back in Belarus, according to footage purportedly showing him welcoming his troops to the country.
According to Sky News, the video was from the Tsel military base in the southern region of Mogilev.
Prigozhin’s plane arrived in Belarus that morning and he is believed to have said: ‘Welcome, lads… welcome to Belarusian soil.’
In yet another twist to the already topsy-turvey saga of Prigozhin’s whereabouts, unconfirmed photographs went viral on social media suggesting he was no longer in Belarus.
He was, in fact, in Russia once more, meeting with African officials in St Petersburg – one also attended by Putin.
‘There was no, and there will be no, reduction in our programmes in Africa,’ Prigozhin told Afrique Média TV. (A BBC analysis found that it was his voice.)
The former caterer was seen in an (again) unverified video posted on Telegram channels affiliated with Wagner appearing to show him in an unspecified part of Africa.
Toting a gun and wearing a sun hat, Prigozhin said in the apparent recruitment video he was ‘making Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa even more free’.
‘Dad is in the building!’ said Gray Zone, a Wagner-affiliated Telegram account, said.
‘To be more precise, Yevgeny Prigozhin addressed from one of the African countries, where the presence of the Wagner Group is increasing.’
Prigozhin and Dmitri Utkin, Wagner’s most prominent commander, were both listed on a passenger manifest for the doomed flight.
Data tracking the zigzagging position of the plane abruptly cut off about 100 miles northwest of Moscow, according to Flightradar24.
Question marks remain about the incident, including whether the Wagner bosses were even actually on the flight.
The aircraft – a Brazilian-made Embraer Legacy 600 – had known ties to the private group.
Prigozhin’s mobile phone was found at the crash site near the city of Tver, The Moscow Times reported.
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