Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led a failed military coup against the government in Russia some time ago, is said to have died in a plane crash.
Rosaviatsia, Russia's aviation agency said Prigozhin, who led an aborted mutiny in June, was one of 10 people on board the downed plane.
It was traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg when it crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in the Tver Region, Russia's emergency situations ministry said.
Russian mercenary Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane appeared fine on radar until last 30 seconds
An Embraer (EMBR3.SA) Legacy 600 executive jet, believed to have carried Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to his death on Wednesday, showed no sign of problem until a precipitous drop in its final 30 seconds, according to flight-tracking data.
At 3:19 p.m. GMT, the aircraft made a “sudden downward vertical,” said Ian Petchenik of Flightradar24. Within about 30 seconds, the aircraft had plummeted more than 8,000 feet from its cruising altitude of 28,000 feet.
“Whatever happened, happened quickly,” Petchenik said.
“They may have been wrestling (with the aircraft) after whatever happened," Petchenik said. But prior to its dramatic drop, there was "no indication that there was anything wrong with this aircraft.”
Video showed the plane descending rapidly with its nose pointing almost straight downward and a plume of smoke or vapor behind it.
Russian investigators opened a criminal probe to determine what happened. Some unnamed sources told Russian media they believed the plane had been shot down by one or more surface-to-air missiles. Reuters could not confirm that.
Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA (EMBR3.SA) said it had not been providing any service or support in recent years to the plane, which seats around 13.
Online flight tracker Flightradar24 last recorded the position of the aircraft at 3:11 p.m. GMT, before the crash. Jamming or interference in the area probably slowed the collection of further location data. (Reuters)