Russia says 10 bodies and flight recorders recovered from scene of Prigozhin jet crash

Russia has recovered 10 bodies and flight recorders from the ill-fated plane carrying Wagner chief and his allies which crashed on Wednesday, officials said.

An investigative committee is carrying out molecular genetic testing to identify the bodies from the crash site, officials said on Friday.

The jet crashed soon after taking off from Moscow for St Petersburg. It was believed to be carrying the powerful mercenary group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, six other Wagner members, and a crew of three, Russia’s civil aviation authority said.

Rescue workers found 10 bodies at the spot of the jet’s remains, the Russian media reported citing anonymous sources from Wagner group which confirmed that their top leader was dead.

The officials have not confirmed the identities of the 10 bodies recovered from the wreckage.

Russian investigators have opened a probe into what happened. However, they have not yet said what was the suspected cause leading to the plane’s to suddenly fall from the sky. A video of the crash showed the plane spinning and falling from several metres high altitude as smoke emanated from it.

Prigozhin was also listed among those aboard the private plane flying northwest of Moscow. The crash has no survivors and comes exactly two months after Prigozhin led a failed mutiny against army chiefs.

While there has been no official confirmation of Prigozhin’s death, he has been eulogised by president Vladimir Putin who sent his condolences to the families of those killed in the crash on Thursday and spoke of Prigozhin in the past tense.

Citing preliminary information, the Russian president condoled the death of Prigozhin and his top Wagner associates. While praising Prigozhin, Mr Putin said he also made some "serious mistakes" without elaborating on them.

Western politicians and commentators have suggested, without presenting evidence, that the Russian leader ordered Prigozhin to be killed to punish him for launching the June mutiny against the army’s leadership which also represented the biggest challenge to Mr Putin’s rule since he came to power in 1999.

British military intelligence said on Friday there was not yet definitive proof that Prigozhin had been onboard but that it was "highly likely" he was dead.

The Pentagon has said its own initial assessment is that Prigozhin was killed.