DNA confirms Wagner Group leader among crash victims, Russian officials say

Yevgeny Prigozhin's death was confirmed by DNA testing, officials said.

August 27, 2023, 7:20 AM

LONDON and AMSTERDAM -- Remains found after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private plane crashed last week were confirmed by genetic testing to be those of the Wagner Group leader, Russian investigators said on Sunday.

Ten people died when the jet fell from the sky near the town of Kuzhenkino, north of Moscow, on August 23.

A law enforcement officer works at the site of a plane crash near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, on August 24, 2023.
AFP via Getty Images, FILE

DNA tests showed that the remains recovered from the site matched all 10 people on the passenger list, Russia's Investigative Committee said Sunday. The remains "conform to the manifest," committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said.

"Molecular and genetic tests have been completed as part of the investigation of the plane crash in the Tver region. According to their finding, all ten victims have been identified. They fully match the list on the flight manifest," the committee said in a statement to Interfax, the Russian newswire.

A man lays flowers at the makeshift memorial in honor of Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, a shadowy figure who managed Wagner's operations and allegedly served in Russian military intelligence, in Moscow, on August 24, 2023.
Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images

The crash may have been caused by an explosion on board the plane, perhaps by a well-placed bomb, U.S. officials told ABC News last week, describing their findings from an initial investigation.

The death of Prigozhin, a businessman who rose to become a powerful international paramilitary leader after entering Putin’s good graces, came exactly two months after he led a daylong mutiny against Moscow.

Wagner Group forces, which been fighting in Ukraine, turned from their headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, a key Russian city near the southern border, and marched toward the capital in the evening on June 23. Within a day, they had turned back.

A portrait of the owner of private military company Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin lays at an informal street memorial near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023.
Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

What followed were weeks of speculation about Prigozhin's whereabouts.

He was first said to be taking refuge in neighboring Belarus under an agreement with Putin that had been brokered by that country’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko. He was then said to have had a meeting with Putin at the Kremlin. A video posted before his death appeared to show him in Africa.

"I knew Prigozhin for a very long time, since the early 1990s. He was a man with a complex destiny, and he made serious mistakes in life," Putin said in a televised address on Thursday. "He achieved the results he needed both for himself and, when I asked him, for the common cause, as in these last months."

ABC News' Anastasia Bagaeva contributed to this report.

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