The Pentagon believes Prigogine is dead, but says there is no evidence the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said Thursday that the Defense Department believes the head of Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, died in a crash in Russia on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to go into the details of how we gathered the information, other than, again, our initial assessment based on a variety of factors was that he was deceased,” Ryder said.
Ryder also said the Pentagon has “no information at this time” that Prigog’s plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
CNN previously reported that the US had seen no sign of the missile downing the plane.
Earlier this Thursday, four US officials told CNN there was no indication the plane was downed by a missile.
US intelligence agencies are still evaluating the cause of the crash. Officials cautioned that it was too early to make any conclusions, but several possibilities were being evaluated, including an explosion on board the vessel that caused the crash.
Another source familiar with Western intelligence services echoed reports by US officials, saying there was no sign of a missile launch.
Officials said the U.S. had no information that the Embraer Legacy 600 was hit by a surface-to-air missile, which could have been fired from a Russian air defense system, or by an air-to-air missile. Russian fighter.
Those familiar with the intelligence believe that the plane was shot down deliberately and that the purpose was to kill Prigozhin. In the days and weeks after the June 24 uprising, it was hotly debated whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would try to assassinate Wagner’s boss.
“I don’t know what happened, but I’m not surprised,” President Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday. “There’s not much going on in Russia that Putin isn’t far behind.”