An engineer who carried out last-minute repairs on the doomed flight reportedly boarded by Yevgeny Prigozhin is being questioned by authorities.
The outspoken head of the mutinous private mercenary group Wagner is thought to have died aged 62 Wednesday after a plane departing Moscow’s Sheremetyevo to St Peterbugh at about 6pm crashed.
It went down 100 miles to the northwest near the city of Tver. An unverified video posted by state-owned news agency RIA Novosti purports to show the plane plummeting as smoke spews out.
Prigozhin’s name was on a list of passengers aboard the Embraer Legacy 600, a plane widely reported as belonging to the former war tycoon.
Speculation has since ignited around the flight, which came only two months after Prigozhin waged an aborted and audacious coup against Vladimir Putin.
In a Telegram post on Friday by VChK-OGPU, which has ties to security services, investigators have been pressing the plane’s engineer for days as they consider whether a bomb may have been planted.
Sergey Kitrish, 41, ‘constantly worked with Prigozhin’s aircraft and it was he who carried out the last repairs to replace the landing gear brake and turbo cooler’, the channel claimed, citing a source.
A ‘bomb’ could have been planted during these repairs which took place ‘under a downpour’, it alleged.
‘Shortly after the explosion, Kitrash was taken under the care of the special services and taken to the crash site,’ VChK-OGPU said, adding that Kitrish spoke with Col Ivan Sibul of the Investigative Committee of Russia (SKR).
Kitrish’s fate – as well as two other engineers, Artur Michenkov and Aleksey Anshukov – is ‘unkown’, the channel added.
The SKR, which acts as Russia’s anti-corruption agency, has been speaking with aircraft manufacturer MNT Aero, according to VChK-OGPU.
‘At the beginning of the Summer (Summer is Here SALE)r of 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin instructed the MNT AERO company, which manages his jets, to save money,’ it said.
But Prizogshin’s cost-cutting measures lead to safety measures taking a backseat, VChK-OGPU said in a post today, with the air conditioner spluttering when the brake pedal was pushed.
‘Whether it was an accident or a conspiracy is not yet clear,’ it added, stressing that the hangar was ”fully guarded’ with CCTV in operation.
But on the day of the supposed crash, the plane was taken out of storage so the penny-pinching Prizogshin could save money on hangar fees.
‘After repairs, ‘the version that is being considered is that the bomb could have been planted precisely in the brake mechanism or the turbo-cooler’.
The turbo-cooler had been smuggled in to evade US sanctions, it was reported, but was damaged when it was dropped on a warehouse floor.
Everyone involved in organising the repair knew the plane belonged to the Wagner head honcho, VChK-OGPU alleged.
‘Right up to the rebellion, Prigozhin observed increased security measures and secrecy,’ the channel said, adding that the boss became erratic and changed the time and place of departure as well as the route.
VChK-OGPU reported that business executive and boss of VIP airline Rusjet, Alexandra Yulina, 37, was also on board. She slipped on under the guise of another passenger as she was considering buying the Embraer Legacy 600.
Footage showed her inspecting the aircraft some eight hours before it crashed.
The bodies of all 10 passengers have been recovered, Russian authorities say.
The plane’s flight recorders, otherwise known as a black box, were also found at the crash site in the Tver region.
Although his death has not been officially declared by Russian authorities or Prigozhin associates, Vladimir Putin spoke of him in the past tense on Thursday.
‘This was a person with a complicated fate. He made some serious mistakes in life, but he also achieved necessary results,’ the president said.
‘The investigation will carefully check all possible versions of what happened,’ added the Russian Investigative Committee.
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