Russia’s most powerful mercenary Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board a plane which crashed on Wednesday evening north of Moscow with no survivors, the Russian authorities said, two months to the day after he led an abortive mutiny against the army top brass.
According to international media reports, a Telegram channel linked to Wagner, Grey Zone, pronounced him dead, however, and hailed him as a hero and a patriot who it said had died at the hands of unidentified people it called “traitors to Russia.”
Amid fevered speculation and an absence of verifiable facts, some of his supporters pointed the finger of blame at the Russian state, others at Ukraine which was due to mark its Independence Day on Thursday.
Others who have opposed President Vladimir Putin or his interests have also died under unclear circumstances or come close to death, including outspoken political leaders and journalists.
A building housing Wagner’s offices in St Petersburg lit up its windows after dark in such a way as to display a giant cross in a mark of respect and mourning. Flowers were left and candles lit near the offices early on Thursday.