Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his first comments Thursday on the mysterious plane crash that presumably killed Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin and the private military company’s co-founder Dmitry Utkin along with eight others near Kuzhenkino, Russia, on Wednesday.
The comments were made hours after the bodies of the crash victims were moved to the Tver Regional Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination, ABC News learned.
“As for the aviation tragedy, first of all, I want to express my sincerest condolences to the families of all the victims,” Putin said in an on-camera address, adding that Wagner Group made a “significant contribution to our common cause of fighting the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine.”
“I knew (Yevgeny) 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,” Putin 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 added on the investigation, “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. 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.”
Earlier Thursday, Putin addressed the BRICS summit of leaders meeting in Johannesburg remotely, but made no mention of the crash in his remarks.
Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg — Prigozhin’s home town — dozens of people have been arriving to light candles and drop flowers at a pop-up memorial.
The jet manufacturer that Prigozhin and Utkin were reportedly on has an impeccable record and it was the first recorded crash in the history of the Embraer Legacy 600.