Yevgeny Prigozhin long believed he'd be killed in his private jet

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin long feared he’d be assassinated on his $10M private jet before it was ‘blown up’ – and used elaborate ruses and disguises to travel incognito

  • Yevgeny Prigozhin reported feared his jet could be the target of an assassination
  • The Embraer Legacy 600 plunged to earth in a fiery crash on August 23
  • Prigozhin used a web of deception when traveling on the $10 million jet 

Long before his private jet plunged to the ground last week, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had feared the plane could be the means of his assassination, according to a new report. 

The Wagner mercenary boss used a web of deception when traveling on the $10 million Embraer Legacy 600, regularly switching off the transponder and filing last-minute changes to flight plans and passenger lists, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. 

The business jet was carrying Prigozhin and his top lieutenants when it crashed halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg on August 23, killing all seven passengers and three crew members.

The crash occurred exactly two months after Prigozhin mounted a short-lived armed rebellion against Russia’s military leadership, posing the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority in his 23-year rule. 

The Kremlin has denied involvement in the crash, but initial US intelligence assessments reportedly suggest Prigozhin was assassinated, possibly by a bomb on board the jet.

Long before his private jet plunged to the ground last week, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had feared the plane could be the means of his assassination

Prigozhin used a web of deception when traveling on the $10 million Embraer Legacy 600 (seen above), regularly switching off the transponder and filing last-minute flight plan changes

Prigozhin had for years been living under US sanctions, with a $10 million American bounty on his head, and had mastered the art of traveling incognito. 

According to the Journal, the jet Prigozhin died on had changed its registration and jurisdiction several times since a Seychelles-based company linked to Prigozhin acquired it in 2018 from a firm registered in the British tax haven of Isle of Man.

For a single one-way journey to the African countries where Wagner has contracts, Prigozhin would sometimes shuffle between two or three different jets, the outlet reported.

The jet’s crew often traveled with false passports, and would revise passenger lists just before takeoff, then radio air-traffic control midflight to announce a sudden change of destination.

Prigozhin was known to travel using elaborate disguises, including beards and fake military uniforms, posing as an Arab warlord. 

He also frequently held meetings on his jet at one of the few airports that allowed him to land, ready for a quick getaway if anything went sideways. 

Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s spokesperson said Wednesday that ‘deliberate wrongdoing’ is among the possible causes of the plane crash that killed Prigozhin.

Rescuers work at the site of Prigozhin’s plane crash near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia on August 23, 2023

Flames are seen after Yevgeny Prigozhin plane crashed in Tver region, Russia

Speaking to reporters during his daily conference call, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that ‘different versions’ of what happened exist and ‘are being considered’ by Russian investigators, including, ‘let’s put this way, deliberate wrongdoing.’

The Interstate Aviation Committee, the Moscow-headquartered body that oversees civil aviation in most former Soviet republics, said in an online statement Wednesday that it was not currently investigating the crash, although the agency has an accident investigation division.

Peskov said there can’t be an international investigation into why the plane plummeted from the sky and he urged reporters to wait for the Russian Investigative Committee to complete its review. 

The committee said last week that it opened a criminal case to look into possible flight safety violations, a standard procedure in Russia when there is no immediate reason to suspect foul play.

Prigozhin, 62, was buried in St. Petersburg , his hometown, in a private ceremony that was shrouded in secrecy until Tuesday evening, when his spokespeople revealed the location of his grave.

Russian investigators inspect a part of a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia, on August 24

A portrait of Wagner Group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin lies on flowers on the grave at the Porokhovskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday

Western officials and analysts expect the private Wagner army to continue operating, particularly in the Sahel region of Africa , where Russian mercenaries have provided security against extremist organizations like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

‘I am sure they´ll find a replacement’ for Prigozhin, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday after chairing talks among EU defense ministers.

‘Wagner will continue to operate in the service of Putin in Africa, doing what they do, which is not contributing to peace in the Sahel or the defense of the rights of Saharan Africans,’ Borrell said.

Africa is vitally important to Russia – economically and politically.

This summer, Wagner helped secure a national referendum in the Central African Republic that cemented presidential power; it is a key partner for Mali´s army in battling armed rebels; and it contacted the military junta in Niger that wants its services following a coup.

Expanding ties and undercutting Western influence in Africa is a top priority as the Kremlin seeks new allies during its war in Ukraine, where Wagner fighters helped Russia win a long and bloody battle for the city of Bakhmut.

Africa´s 54 nations are the largest voting bloc at the U.N., and Moscow has actively worked to rally their support for its invasion.

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