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17 July, 2024
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Key Wagner figures among victims in jet crash

Wagner chief confirmed dead

Source: The Telegraph

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the 62-year-old head of Russia's private military company Wagner, known for his leadership in a mutiny against the Russian military in June, along with his company's top military figure, Dmitry Utkin, and eight other passengers, tragically lost their lives on Wednesday. The fatal incident occurred when a twin-engine Embraer private jet, en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg, crashed in the Tver region, with no survivors, as confirmed by Russia's civil aviation agency, Rosaviatia.

The private jet that crashed north of Moscow on Wednesday was carrying seven passengers and three crew on board.

The manifest issued by Russia’s aviation agency revealed that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was among the passengers, as well as senior Wagner mercenaries and associates.

Here’s what we know about the other victims so far:

Dmitry Utkin

Dmitry Utkin, 53, is a former Russian special forces officer and lieutenant colonel in the GRU, the Russian military’s intelligence agency. Utkin has been described as Prigozhin’s right-hand man and is widely believed to have co-founded the Wagner group, where he was the operational leader.

The former soldier had Nazi tattoos and, according to the Russian media, named the mercenary group after Richard Wagner, whose music was favored by Hitler.

Born in Asbest, a town in Russia’s Ural mountains named after the carcinogenic mineral asbestos, Utkin was deployed twice to Chechnya as a soldier.

As a mercenary, he was accused of serious human rights abuses, including torture and arbitrary killings and was known for instilling fear to maintain power. In Homs, Syria, he allegedly gave the order to beat a Wagner deserter to death and to film the act.

In recent years, he has been sanctioned by the UK, US and European Union in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Valeriy Yevgenyevich Chekalov

Chekalov, 47, was a business tycoon known to be in the upper ranks of Prigozhin’s empire.

In July, he was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for alleged involvement in the shipment of munitions to the Russian Federation and for “acting for or on behalf of Prigozhin”.

According to the Washington Post, citing All Eyes on Wagner, an open-source research group, Chekalov was the registered director of Neva, a company linked to Wagner activities in Libya and Syria, and is also listed as the owner of Kollective Services, a St. Petersburg-based company that shares addresses with Prigozhin’s Concord Holding Company.

Evgeniy Makaryan

Makaryan was a known Wagner associate who joined the group in 2016, according to Jack Margolin, a conflict finance specialist at C4ADS and author of an upcoming book on the Wagner group.

His call sign was “Makarych” and he was deployed to conflict zones including the Central African Republic and Libya, where he was injured.

However, the Dossier, a Russian investigative organization, said he was a former police officer who was injured while fighting for Wagner in Syria in 2017, claiming that he “loved to read”.

Sergey Propustin

The Dossier Centre reports Propustin fought in the second Chechen war and joined Wagner in 2015. It said that from 2016, he fought in a Wagner unit from which Prigozhin recruited personal guards.

Crew members also named

Little information is available about the remaining crash victims, who were named Alexander Totmin and Nikolai Matuseyev.

The crew members were identified as Captain Alexei Levshin, co-pilot Rustam Karimov and flight attendant Kristina Raspopova.

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