US intelligence is trying to figure out what apparently caused Prigozhin's plane to crash, and early theories range from missiles to bombs

  • US intelligence is trying to figure out what led a plane to crash in Russia, apparently killing Yevgeny Prigozhin.

  • Theories include an explosion caused by a bomb or other sabotage.

  • Prigozhin, who led a mutiny against Russia's military, was presumed dead on Wednesday.

United States intelligence is working to figure out what caused a private jet to crash outside of Moscow, resulting in Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin's apparent death.

Early theories on what may have caused the plane to plummet from the sky reportedly include an explosion caused by a bomb, a surface-to-air missile, or some other kind of sabotage like tampered-with fuel.

Prigozhin — the head of the mercenary group who staged a short-lived mutiny against Russia's military two months ago — was presumed dead on Wednesday after a Wagner-affiliated plane crashed in Russia's Tver region.

In the aftermath, Russian state media reported that Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on the plane that went down, killing all 10 people on board, including Prigozhin's right-hand man Dmitry Utkin.

Preliminary information from the US intelligence community has suggested that the plane crashed as the result of an intentional explosion, according to multiple reports, including the Associated Press.

Anonymous US and Western officials did not provide details to the AP on what may have caused the explosion, but one official said a preliminary US intelligence assessment concluded that it was "very likely" Prigozhin was targeted.

Putin and Prigozhin
Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin in happier times — a 2010 tour of a school lunch factory outside Saint Petersburg.Alexey Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

That official told the AP that the explosion seemed to match Russian President Vladimir Putin's "long history of trying to silence his critics."

The New York Times, citing American and other Western officials, also reported that an explosion is the primary theory of what caused the plane to fall out of the sky.

A bomb or another device placed on the jet could have caused the blast, the anonymous officials told the Times.

US intelligence was also looking at the possibility of contaminated fuel, according to the Times.

Anonymous US officials told the Wall Street Journal that the plane was downed in an assassination plot and that initial assessments suggested that a bomb exploded on board or some other sabotage.

Two anonymous US officials, citing preliminary information, told Reuters that it was likely a surface-to-air missile that came from inside Russia shot down the Wagner-linked plane.

However, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday there was no indication to suggest that a surface-to-air missile caused the plane crash.

Ryder added that the Defense Department believes it was "likely" that Prigozhin was killed.

Meanwhile, Putin on Thursday broke his silence on Prigozhin's apparent death, calling him a "man of complicated fate" who has made "serious mistakes" in life.

There has been long-standing suspicion Prigozhin could face revenge from Putin after the Wagner chief led the armed uprising in June against Russian military brass.

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