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Yevgeny Prigozhin, former Wagner Group boss, confirmed dead by Russian investigators

UPI
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, is pictured in a still image from a video posted on a Wagner-linked Telegram channel on August 22. File Photo by Razgruzka_Vagnera/UPI

Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former head of the private military company Wagner Group, was confirmed dead using genetic testing, Russian investigators said Sunday.

The Main Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia released a statement Sunday, days after Prigozhin was rumored to have died in a plane crash.

"As part of the investigation of the plane crash in the Tver region, molecular genetic examinations have been completed. According to their results, the identities of all 10 dead were established, they correspond to the list stated in the flight sheet," the brief statement reads.

Though Prigozhin was not directly named in the statement, Russian officials had previously announced that Prigozhin's name was on the flight manifest.

Prigozhin's death puts an end to a monthslong saga that began in late June when the mercenary leader led an armed rebellion against the military leaders of Russia over the handling of President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

Wagner mercenaries ultimately turned back before reaching Moscow when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a longtime friend of both Putin and Prigozhin, helped broker a deal that would grant refuge to the mercenary boss and his employees in Belarus.

Though the coup ended before reaching Moscow, the incident has been seen as a massive embarrassment to Putin and his failing war effort. Russia quickly moved to block Wagner Group accounts on social media as officials sought to stymie further rebellion.

Prigozhin himself largely disappeared from the public eye and accounts differed on where the man nicknamed "Putin's Chef" had ended up. A Russian poll found that Russians looked unfavorably on Prigozhin after the rebellion and military leaders close to him have also been removed from their posts.

His fighters, however, arrived in Belarus soon after and were expected to begin training Belarus' Armed Forces. Belarus has shared footage purporting to show Wagner instructors training Belarusian troops near Asipovichy in Belarus' Mogilev Oblast.

The cause of the crash that killed Prigozhin was not immediately clear but Putin has been known to use poison and other means to silence his critics.