Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary Wagner group, is believed to have been killed when his private plane crashed in flames in Russia.
The aircraft was flying from Moscow to St Petersburg, with seven passengers and three crew. Everyone on board is reported to have died.
The news led to widespread speculation that President Putin and Russian military leaders may have been responsible for Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death. A Telegram channel with links to the Wagner group said that Prigozhin had died “as a result of actions of traitors of Russia”.
Prigozhin, whose Wagner forces had been fighting in support of Russia in Ukraine, led a failed mutiny against the Russian armed forces in June. At the time he moved his troops out of Ukraine, seizing the southern Russian city of Rostov on Don and threatening to march on Moscow. The uprising came after months of tension with Russian military commanders over the Ukraine conflict.
At the time, Russia’s President Putin accused Wagner of being “traitors”. The stand-off was settled by a deal which allowed Wagner troops to move to Belarus or join the regular Russian army. Prigozhin himself agreed to relocate to Belarus but was apparently able to move freely afterwards, making a number of public appearances.
The plane crash came on the same day that the senior Russian general Sergei Surovikin was reportedly sacked as chief of the Russian air force. General Surovikin was known to have good relations with Prigozhin and had not been seen in public since the mutiny.
Mishal Husain presents BBC News at Ten reporting by Russia editor Steve Rosenberg, Ros Atkins and Will Vernon in Moscow.
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