Russian investigators say DNA testing confirms that Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin was aboard the small jet that crashed outside Moscow under mysterious circumstances last week.
Russia’s Investigation Committee confirmed the identities of all 10 people aboard the craft, which also included Prigozhin’s second in command, Dmitry Utkin. Investigators have yet to offer an explanation for why the plane crashed.
“As part of the investigation of the plane crash in the Tver region, molecular-genetic examinations have been completed,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement. “According to their results, the identities of all 10 dead were established. They correspond to the list stated in the flight sheet.”
Prigozhin’s private jet plummeted out of the sky on Wednesday in the Tver region outside Moscow. Residents of a village near the crash site say they heard an “explosion” in the air before the jet come down.
Prigozhin’s death comes just months after he led a stop-and-go insurrection against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime earlier this year. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, expressed anger at how his forces had been used and treated and ordered a march on Moscow.
He soon aborted the march after deal making with Putin’s regime, under which he was supposed to remain in exile in Belarus.
U.S. officials said Thursday that they believed Prigozhin was aboard the aircraft, though they said there was no evidence of a missile strike against the plane.
Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the U.S. would not comment on whether Prigozhin’s death was part of a deliberate assassination.
“First of all, our initial assessment is that it’s likely Prigozhin was killed,” he said. “We don’t have any information to indicate, right now, the press reporting, stating that there was some type of surface-to-air missile that took down the plane. But, we assess that information to be inaccurate.”
Prigozhin, once a close ally of Putin, was given great latitude in his criticism of Russian military leaders amid Moscow’s stalled war against Ukraine. Videos of him publicly assailing Russian military generals and officials went viral as the army encountered strong Ukrainian resistance and battlefield losses.
Fox News’ Louis Caisano and Reuters contributed to this report.