Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin confirmed dead in crash: DNA report

Wagner boss Yevgenyn Prigozhin

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, was declared dead by Russian officials, dispelling any lingering questions about whether the wily mercenary turned mutineer was on the plane that crashed, killing everyone on board.

The 10 remains found at the crash site, according to genetic testing, “conform to the manifest” for the flight, said Svetlana Petrenko, the spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee, among others, in a statement on Sunday.

Russia’s civil aviation authority had said Prigozhin and some of his top lieutenants were on the list of seven passengers and three crew members.

The Investigative Committee did not indicate what might have caused the business jet to plummet from the sky halfway between Moscow and St Petersburg, Prigozhin’s hometown.

But the crash’s timing raised suspicions of a possible Kremlin-orchestrated hit – something Russia has vehemently denied.

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Peter Eltsov, associate professor at the US National Defense University, said conspiracy theories about Prigozhin still being alive say a lot about how big a figure the Wagner Group chief was in Russia.

“He is becoming this iconic hero for a lot of his followers,” Eltsov told Al Jazeera.

Two months ago, Prigozhin, 62, mounted a daylong mutiny against Russia’s military, leading his mercenaries from Ukraine toward Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried the act as “treason” and vowed punishment for those involved.

Instead, the Kremlin quickly cut a deal with Prigozhin to end the revolt, saying he would be allowed to walk free without facing any charges and to resettle in Belarus.

Questions remained about whether the former ally of Russia’s leader would face a comeuppance for the brief uprising that posed the biggest challenge to Putin’s authority during his 23-year rule.

Prigozhin’s second-in-command, Dmitry Utkin, as well as Wagner logistics mastermind Valery Chekalov, also were killed in the crash. Utkin was long believed to have founded Wagner and baptised the group with his nom de guerre.

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