close U.S. officials do not believe Prigozhin's plane was taken down by a surface-to-air missile Video

U.S. officials do not believe Prigozhin’s plane was taken down by a surface-to-air missile

Fox News chief national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin has the latest after Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane crashed inside Russia, on ‘Special Report.’

The Russian government is denying any involvement in the air disaster that allegedly killed Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin this week.

The Kremlin pushed back against speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the disaster, calling such accusations “a complete lie.”

“Right now, of course, there are lots of speculations around this plane crash and the tragic deaths of the passengers of the plane, including Yevgeny Prigozhin,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the press over a conference call.  “Of course, in the West those speculations are put out under a certain angle, and all of it is a complete lie,”


Prigozhin plane crash

People carry a body bag away from the wreckage of a crashed private jet, near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia. Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, allegedly died when a private jet he was said to be on crashed on August 23, 2023, killing all 10 people on board. (AP Photo)

The Kremlin spokesperson dodged a question on whether Prigozhin has been concretely confirmed dead, saying that “right now all the necessary forensic analyses, including genetic testing, will be carried out. Once some kind of official conclusions are ready to be released, they will be released.”

Prigozhin, the founder of Russia’s Wagner Group who challenged the rule of Vladimir Putin just months ago, was killed Wednesday in a plane crash that has left 10 people dead outside of Moscow, state media is reporting.

The business jet was traveling from the Russian capital to St. Petersburg when it went down in the Tver region, according to the TASS news agency.


Prigozhin memorial

A portrait of the owner of private military company Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin lays at an informal memorial next to the former ‘PMC Wagner Centre’ in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, August 24, 2023. Russia’s civil aviation agency claims Prigozhin was aboard a plane that crashed north of Moscow.  (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Putin spoke for the first time Thursday regarding Prigozhin’s death, expressing sympathy and condolences without addressing accusations of foul play.

“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,” the Russian president said. “He achieved the results he needed both for himself and, when I asked him, for the common cause, as in these last months. He was a talented person, a talented businessman. He worked not only in our country and worked with results, but also abroad in Africa, in particular. He was involved in oil, gas, precious metals and stones there.”

Without acknowledging international speculation that the Russian government was involved in the mercenary leader’s death, Putin gave assurance an investigation was underway.


A crash, smoke

In this image taken from video, smoke and flames rise from a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver region, Russia, Wednesday, August. 23, 2023. Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, reportedly died when a private jet he was said to be on crashed on August 23, 2023, killing all 10 people on board.  (AP Photo)

“As far as I know, it was only yesterday that he got back from Africa. He met some officials here. But what is absolutely clear — the head of the Investigative Committee reported to me this morning, they have already launched a preliminary investigation into this incident. And it will be carried out in full and to the end,” Putin said. “There is no doubt about that here. Let’s see what the investigators say in the near future. Tests — technical and genetic tests — are being carried out now. This takes some time.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denied any involvement in the alleged death of Prigozhin and pointed the finger at Putin.

“We are not involved in this situation, that’s for sure,” the president said Thursday. “I think everyone is aware of who is involved.”

Dmitry Peskov in December 2021

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends an annual end-of-year news conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, Russia. (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)


Media figures and government officials have speculated that Putin was behind the explosion that allegedly took the mercenary warlord’s life — but news outlets have published reports with conflicting information from the U.S. federal government. 

Rebekah Koffler, a strategic military intelligence analyst and former senior official at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told Fox News Digital that reports by Russian state media should be looked at with skepticism, given Moscow’s agenda. 

“At this time, we lack independent confirmation whether the Russian media or the Federal Air Transport Agency reporting about Prigozhin’s death is credible,” she said. “There could be many reasons why Moscow wants us to believe that Prigozhin is dead. If he indeed died in the plane crash, it’s probably a result of the assassination operation, ‘wet deeds’ in Russian tradecraft, conducted on Putin’s orders.” 

Timothy Nerozzi is a writer for Fox News Digital. You can follow him on Twitter @timothynerozzi and can email him at [email protected]

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