The Mysterious Movements of Yevgeny Prigozhin Before the Jet Crash

The tragic private jet crash near Moscow that is presumed to have claimed the life of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the Wagner Group, has left investigators questioning his whereabouts leading up to the incident. As the investigation unfolds, various reports and unverified video footage provide glimpses into Prigozhin’s activities and potential locations before the crash. Although concrete facts are limited, these fragments may shed light on the movements of the influential figure in the days preceding the fateful incident.

The crashed Embraer Legacy 600 model, with the registration number RA-02795 and associated with Autolex Transport, has been linked to Prigozhin by the US government. However, FlightRadar24, a popular plane tracking website, suggests that the jet had not been in use recently. Flight records show gaps in its travel history, with extended periods outside of Russia. Debris found at the crash site appears to have the last few digits of the registration number painted on, matching the digits “795.” While the specific departure location remains unknown, it is unclear whether Prigozhin was aboard the ill-fated aircraft. Acknowledged voyages of the plane include trips between Moscow, St Petersburg, and Belarus, where Wagner is believed to have established a base.

Another aircraft, registered as RA-02748, has also been associated with Prigozhin. This jet flew from St Petersburg towards Moscow before its tracking data ceased near Ostafyevo airport. Subsequent records indicate it traveled from Moscow to Baku, Azerbaijan, and it has made frequent flights within Russia, the Middle East, central Asia, and Africa throughout the year. Additionally, an IL-76 plane with the registration number RA-76845, purportedly linked to Wagner, flew from Moscow to Damascus, Syria, and later traveled to Bamako in Mali, returning to Moscow on the same day a video supposedly featuring Prigozhin in Africa was released. However, verifications of these reports and the location of the video filming remain elusive.

Despite the attention drawn to planes associated with Wagner, Prigozhin has maintained a relatively discreet presence since a brief mutiny in June. Confirmations of his whereabouts have been scarce, with his latest appearance occurring in a Telegram video on 21 August. Clad in military attire and armed with a rifle, Prigozhin recruits “heroic warriors” for Wagner while surrounded by similarly attired men near military vehicles. He hints at his current location being Africa, though the exact place remains unverified.

The last confirmed sighting of Prigozhin was during an African and Russian leaders summit in St Petersburg on 27 July. A photograph captures him shaking hands with a presidential adviser from the Central African Republic. Prior to this, a mid-July video emerged, showing Prigozhin welcoming Wagner fighters to their new base in Belarus. BBC Verify traced the video to Tsel, approximately 64 miles (103km) from the capital, Minsk. Journalist Andrey Zakharov alleges that Prigozhin returned from Africa to Russia with the entire senior leadership of Wagner on 23 August, a claim seemingly supported by President Putin’s statement.

The puzzling movements of Prigozhin leading up to the private jet crash have sparked speculation and intrigue. Investigators continue their work to establish an accurate timeline of events, relying on fragmentary evidence and unverified reports. As the world waits for definitive answers, the mystery surrounding Prigozhin’s activities persists, leaving many questioning his precise location and the circumstances that ultimately led to the tragic crash.