The Pentagon dismissed the notion that a ground-launched missile had struck the aircraft of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian private military group Wagner, whose jet crashed a day earlier, resulting in at least ten fatalities.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s spokesperson, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, stated that information available to the Pentagon did not support the theory of a missile hitting the Embraer aircraft in the Tver region, north of Moscow.
Brigadier Ryder did not offer insight into the cause of the crash that occurred on Wednesday, but he mentioned that the U.S. believed Prigozhin had likely been killed in the incident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin broke his silence following Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death, offering condolences to the families of the crash victims.
Putin referred to the crash as a tragedy, recognizing Prigozhin’s complicated history and acknowledging both his mistakes and achievements.
The crash happened two months after Prigozhin led an unsuccessful mutiny against Moscow’s top leadership, challenging Putin’s authority.
Putin noted that Prigozhin had made a notable contribution to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, emphasizing their shared goals and experiences.
Though authorities in Russia initiated an investigation, speculation about the incident being an assassination abounds.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky clarified that his country was not involved and alluded to Putin’s potential involvement, stating that “everyone knows who this concerns.”
Western leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, implied that Putin might have a hand in the killing. France and Germany also expressed doubts about the crash’s accidental nature, with Germany pointing to a pattern of unexplained deaths in Russia.
Russia’s aviation authority released the names of those on the private jet, including Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, Prigozhin’s right-hand man who managed Wagner’s operations and was rumored to have connections to Russian military intelligence.