Ukraine war live updates: Kremlin quiet on presumed death of Wagner boss Prigozhin in a plane crash; Biden points finger at Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed Ukrainians as “free people” on Thursday as his country marks its independence day.

“Happy Ukraine’s Independence Day!” Zelenskyy wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“The day of the free, the strong, and the dignified. The day of equals. Ukrainian men and women. In our entire country,” he said.

“In this fight, everyone counts. Because the fight is for something that is important to everyone. An independent Ukraine.”

— Karen Gilchrist

The Embraer Legacy 600 jet that crashed over Russia’s Tver Region Wednesday, which led to the presumed death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and all nine other passengers on board, showed no signs of problems until its final 30 seconds, according to flight-tracking data.

The aircraft, which was traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg, made a “sudden downward vertical” at 6:19 p.m. local time, around 30 minutes into its journey, Flightradar24’s director of communications, Ian Petchenik, told Reuters.

“Whatever happened, happened quickly,” Petchenik said.

In around 30 seconds, the plane plummeted more than 8,000 feet from its cruising altitude of 28,000 feet.

“They may have been wrestling (with the aircraft) after whatever happened,” Petchenik said. However, he added that prior to its precipitous drop, there was “no indication that there was anything wrong with this aircraft.”

Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA said it had not been providing any service or support in recent years to the plane.

— Karen Gilchrist

U.S. President Joe Biden has condemned the presumed death in a plane crash of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Andrew Caballero-reynolds | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he was not surprised by the presumed death in a plane crash of Kremlin dissident Yevgeny Prigozhin, adding that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the incident.

“I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised,” the president said during a briefing after the crash of Prigozhin’s private jet, which was traveling between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind. But I don’t know enough to know the answer,” he added.

Russia’s aviation authority, Rosaviatsiya, said Prigozhin and senior Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin were among 10 people travelling on an Embraer business jet that crashed on Wednesday evening.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, and the Kremlin has yet to comment on the incident.

It comes two months to the day since Prigozhin and his Wagner paramilitary forces staged a mutiny against Moscow’s top military brass in June over what he argued was its incompetent prosecution of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

— Karen Gilchrist

Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is presumed dead after a private jet carrying him and nine others crashed while travelling from Moscow to St. Petersburg on Wednesday evening.

Wagner Account | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The chief of Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is feared dead in a plane crash, Russian state media reported Wednesday.

The aircraft, a business jet, crashed in the Tver region northwest of Moscow, with all 10 people on board killed, according to Russia’s state news agency Tass. Prigozhin was on its list of passengers.

The 62-year old paramilitary leader, once a close confidant of Putin’s, led a short-lived mutiny against the Russian government in late June after spending months vocally criticizing his country’s top brass. His forces, known for their particularly violent battlefield tactics, spearheaded a number of battles for Russia on the Ukrainian front.

— Natasha Turak

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