A former member of the notorious Russian Wagner Group and one-time assistant to Yevgeny Prigozhin has told Sky News he has been told his former boss is indeed dead.
Marat Gabadullin lives in exile now having left the Wagner network and writes books about his experience in its ranks.
“As of now, the information is that he has died,” he told Sky News. “My sources also confirm this information.”
Wagner is a shady network of mercenaries, deal makers, ex-soldiers and gangsters. It presents itself as a private mercenary corporation, but is in reality a branch of the Russian government, kept at arms length, distant enough to allow the Kremlin to disown its nefarious activities.
Now it seems at least three of its most senior figures are dead, incinerated in a plane crash being blamed on their former patron, Vladimir Putin.
Many questions remain unanswered, not least why so many were travelling together in the same plane.
Marat Gabadullin says it goes against all of Wagner’s safety procedures.
“This surprised me, why they did not follow a certain security protocol, why two top people were flying together. Yes, I was surprised.”
Russian authorities say on the passenger list were Yevgeny Prigozhin, but also his alarming looking deputy, neo-nazi Dmitry Utkin and the man in charge of Wagner’s finances Valeriy Chekalov.
The Wagner network is being neutered by the Kremlin and Russian military intelligence, dismantling its influence and business not least in Africa, its most lucrative territory.
But the organisation is more likely to mutate and morph under a different name perhaps than to disappear, but once again compliant to Vladimir Putin’s will.