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Yevgeny Prigozhin plane crash: who were the passengers on the jet?

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A fighter of Wagner private mercenary group lights a candle at a makeshift memorial with portraits of Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner group commander Dmitry Utkin outside the local office of the Wagner private mercenary group in Novosibirsk, Russia August 24, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer

Funerals are expected to take place soon for Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and other members of his Wagner group who died in a plane crash last week.

Here are some key facts about them.

* Yevgeny Prigozhin, 62, soared to prominence after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine where his fighters including thousands of released convicts led the Russian capture of the city of Bakhmut. He accused Russia’s military top brass of incompetence and even treason in prosecuting the war and led a two-day mutiny in June, defused by a deal that, among other things, dropped criminal charges against him.

* Dmitry Utkin, 53, Prigozhin’s right-hand man, co-founder of Wagner and the group’s top military commander, whose call-sign was “Wagner”. After a deal ended the mutiny, Utkin said in a speech to Wagner fighters: “This is not the end. This is just the beginning of the biggest work in the world that will be carried out very soon,” adding in English: “And welcome to hell!” He fought for Wagner in Syria and Ukraine, and was formerly a special forces officer in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service. Utkin was photographed in 2016 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

* Valery Chekalov, 47, whose call-sign was “Rover”, was a senior deputy of Prigozhin, according to Wagner-affiliated Telegram channels and Russian media.

The St. Petersburg newspaper Fontanka, which has been investigating the Wagner group for years, wrote that Chekalov was Wagner’s “logistician”. Until 2022 Chekalov also headed the Prigozhin-linked Neva consultancy, which was reported to have operated in Syria.

Less is known about the four other Wagner men who died in the crash, all reported to be members of Prigozhin’s security entourage.

* Sergei Propustin, 44, whose call-sign was “Cedar” according to Fontanka. One of the rare published photographs of Propustin showed him dressed in black and wearing a cap, accompanying Prigozhin on a tour of Russian regions this year.

* Alexander Totmin, 30, was among the few Wagner mercenaries active on social media, with photos from various Russian cities including St. Petersburg where he lived. Myrotvorets said Totmin had served in Wagner forces in Sudan.

* Yevgeny Makaryan joined Wagner in 2016 and fought in Syria, according to Fontanka.

* Nikolai Matuseyev – the fourth bodyguard, about whom Reuters was unable to establish further information.

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