Two months before the plane crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin, Vladimir Putin had his henchmen raid the mansion of the Wagner boss in Russia.
After the Wagner chief’s failed mutiny against the Russian Defense Ministry, investigators searched Prigozhin’s estate in St. Petersburg on June 24 this year.
During their raid, Putin’s officers uncovered huge caches of assault weapons and ammunition, stashes of gold bullion, a stuffed alligator and a framed photograph purported to show the severed heads of the exiled private military leader’s enemies.
State media also leaked images that appeared to show the Wagner boss in the ridiculous disguises he reportedly wore in Africa and the Middle East while promoting Putin’s interests and deploying Wagner troops.
Known as Putin’s chef and with long-standing ties to the Kremlin dictator, Prigozhin was long considered a prime target by Russian authorities after his uprising failed and he was exiled to Belarus.
Russian officials yesterday claimed Prigozhin was on an ill-fated plane that crashed in a field north of Moscow two months after his failed coup attempt against Putin’s regime, killing all 10 passengers.
Photos purportedly showing Prigozhin wearing the wigs as part of various disguises have been leaked to Russian state-sponsored Telegram channels
Prigozhin’s supporters say he may have worked as a state agent and sharing these images violates Russian security laws
Allegedly, Prigozhin can be seen in various disguises in these leaked images to Telegram
Police discovered a closet containing many different styles and colors of wigs
Images leaked by Russian media in July showed Putin’s officers ransacking the Wagner boss’s home.
A giant sledgehammer labeled “For Use in Important Negotiations” was photographed and displayed next to a pool table in a reception room of the mansion.
Raids on Prigozhin’s property, which includes his office building, also seized scores of boxes of Russian banknotes worth around £86 million (10 billion rubles).
Russian media reports that the money and equipment have since been returned to the office and the Wagner Center.
Among the private military leader’s prized possessions, photographed in his luxurious palace home, was a Russian military uniform adorned with around two dozen medals.
Also on display at his luxurious home was what appeared to be a stuffed alligator on a table.
Several passports were found and photographed.
The video shows officers armed with assault rifles searching his home and offices.
Photos also revealed the luxury in which Prigozhin lived, revealing his private swimming pool, helipad, sauna, gym and a doctor’s office.
The house also appeared to have its own private prayer room filled with religious images.
During a raid on Prigozhin’s St. Petersburg palace, Russian security services are said to have found a stuffed alligator on a table
A framed photo allegedly showing the severed heads of enemies of exiled private military leader Prigozhin
Security forces found a huge cache of weapons, including assault rifles and ammunition, in the house of the Wagner founder
Images of the raid released by Russia show a grand piano at the base of a sweeping staircase
A photo published in Izvestia shows a spa and sauna room lit by a chandelier
A Telegram channel with links to Wagner announced Prigozhin’s death on Friday evening
Russian state media also leaked photos of Prigozhin in various disguises.
One disguise showed him as a Defense Ministry employee in Sudan, while another disguised him as an auxiliary diplomat from Abu Dhabi.
Others showed him as various military figures from Libya and Syria, and several selfie shots that appeared on pro-Kremlin Telegram channels show the mercenary leader making strange faces.
Although the Wagner Group officially trades as a private company, several people who helped found it are affiliated with the GRU.
The poor quality of some of the disguises led to speculation on some Telegram channels that they may have been tampered with to further discredit the Wagner boss.
But Prigozhin’s supporters said sharing the images might violate Russia’s strict national security laws if they were in fact real camouflage Prigozhin had used abroad.
Ukrainian commentators, meanwhile, wasted no time in ridiculing the Wagner leader, and Kiev government official Anton Gerashchenko wrote: “These are not footage from an audition for a role in a cheap comedy, but a selfie of Prigozhin.”
“In most of the pictures yesterday’s ‘Hero of Russia’ wears a Libyan uniform with Libyan epaulets and conspiracy elements.”
Russian security services search the home and offices of exiled Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin
Huge caches of weapons were found by the police at the Wagner Führer’s estate
Gold bars were among the riches that police found in Prigozhin’s mansion
A giant sledgehammer labeled “For Use in Important Negotiations” was photographed and displayed next to a pool table in a reception room of the mansion
Prigozhin’s private swimming pool in his St. Petersburg palace, complete with a small slide
An opulent reception area of Prigozhin’s home captured on video by Russian police
The house also appears to have its own private prayer room filled with religious imagery
A luxurious living area in the mansion complete with a huge cinema screen TV to the left
Among the private military leader’s prized possessions photographed in his palace was a Russian military uniform adorned with around two dozen medals
Huge amounts of cash in various currencies worth about 86 million pounds (10 billion rubles) were found in Prigozhin’s offices.
Several passports were also found and photographed in Prigozhin’s house.
The raid came after the warlord launched what appeared to be an armed uprising against Putin – which was soon halted after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko helped negotiate a deal to end the conflict.
Since the failed uprising, Prigozhin – a figure once popular with Russians – has faced a wave of criticism.
Russian state media, which once praised him and his fighters for their brutal, tough election campaign in Ukraine, attacked him for his alleged betrayal of Putin and even stopped broadcasting news about Wagner and Prigozhin’s predicament.
Prigozhin, 62, had become increasingly cautious since his coup against Putin’s regime, was warned of the danger to his life and was known to be very vigilant about his safety.
But Russian officials now claim he was on board a plane that crashed north of Moscow on Wednesday night, with no survivors.
The Federal Air Transport Agency released a list of everyone it believed to be on board the private jet, including Prigozhin, his deputy Dmitry Utkin and five other suspected close allies.
Ten bodies were recovered from the rubble, according to local emergency services, but Web cannot independently verify if Prigozhin was one of them.
Reports of a second plane, also linked to Prigozhin, in the area at the time of the crash and later flying to Moscow, have fueled speculation that the warlord escaped death by traveling on another plane , or that it might even be his ruse to flee into exile.
Both state media and Telegram accounts linked to Wagner have reported on the deaths of Prigozhin and Utkin.
While the fate of his bitter rival remained unknown, the Russian President enjoyed a World War II memorial concert and presented military honors in Kursk, Russia.
Washington confirmed Wednesday night that President Biden has been briefed, and the UK government confirmed it is “monitoring the situation closely.”
Yevgeny Prigozhin (left) joins Vladimir Putin (center) at a dinner with foreign scientists and journalists at the Cheval Blanc restaurant on the grounds of an equestrian complex outside Moscow in November 2011
Video footage allegedly shows the plane falling from the sky on Friday in the Bologovsky district of the Tver region, 60 miles north of Moscow. A burning wreckage was later seen in a field, which appeared to be an airplane. Unconfirmed images showed it was completely ablaze.
However, it is rumored that Prigozhin was not on board the fateful plane, despite state television claiming otherwise.
Sources close to him said that while he owned the plane, he usually flew on another plane.
Another plane, also said to have ties to Prigozhin, was spotted “zigzagging” over Moscow after the crash, fueling speculation that the Wagner boss might not have been on board after all.
The tracking data available for the crashed plane appears to show that it climbed to about 29,000 feet before suddenly disappearing and dropping to 0 feet.
Images released online are said to show how the jet, believed to be carrying the Russian boss, fell to the ground in the crash in the Tver region of Russia
It has been claimed that video showed the plane flying in the Tver region before it crashed to the ground (right).
According to Russian officials, ten bodies were recovered from the rubble pictured above
Plumes of smoke from the fire, which was said to have originated from the plane, could be seen for miles, as video posted on social media shows
A channel linked to Wagner said the plane was shot down by anti-aircraft guns, but this has not yet been confirmed.
A Telegram channel believed to be linked to Prigozhin also reported on the death of their leader, saying he was “killed as a result of the actions of traitors to Russia.”
In one post he was described as a “Hero of Russia, a true patriot of his fatherland”.
Wagner’s deputy and co-founder Dmitri Utkin, who is widely reported to be a neo-Nazi, is also believed to have died in the crash.
One of the other allegedly deceased passengers, Valeriy Chekalov, was previously sanctioned by the US for his ties to the Wagner Group.
In a Wagner speech last night, it was said: “We say directly that we suspect the Kremlin officials led by Putin of an assassination attempt!” The Sun reported.
“If the information about Prigozhin’s death is confirmed, we will organize a second March of Justice in Moscow!”
Russian state television Rossiya24 was the first to announce the death of warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, stating: “A private jet en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg has crashed.”
“Ten people were killed.” Among the passengers was Yevgeny Prigozhin.
It was not initially known if Wagner boss Prigozhin (pictured in a video reportedly filmed in Africa and released on Monday) – known as the Wagner boss and with long-standing ties to the Kremlin dictator – was on board
It was later reported that the plane, on whose flight list Prigozhin was listed as a passenger, caught fire as pictures on social media claimed to show the wreckage
A man lights a candle at an informal memorial next to the former Wagner Center in St. Petersburg, which is dotted with dozens of flowers
Witnesses to the crash heard a loud bang before seeing the plane “fall out of the sky” – locals are sharing these images of the aftermath on social media, although it’s currently unconfirmed if this is the plane
The Russian investigative committee released a photo of the alleged crash site on Wednesday after the fire was extinguished
Wagner deputy and co-founder Dmitry Utkin is said to have died in the crash
Ultranationalist pro-war TV station Tsargrad said the bodies of Prigozhin and Utkin had been identified at the crash site. A genetic analysis had yet to be carried out and the authorities have launched an investigation, state media reports.
However, Keir Giles, a Russia expert at the international think tank Chatham House, urged caution when reporting on Prigozhin’s death.
He said: “Several people have changed their names to Yevgeny Prigozhin to disguise his travels.”
“Let’s not be surprised if he shows up in a new video from Africa anytime soon,” Mr Giles said.