Russian President Vladimir Putin has broken his silence about the plane crash that took place outside Moscow on Wednesday, almost 24 hours after the incident.
He sent his condolences to the families of those who died in the crash without confirming by name if Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was listed as a passenger on the plane, had died.
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Here is a translation by Reuters news agency of what Putin said:
“As for the aviation tragedy, first of all I want to express my most sincere condolences to the families of all the victims.
“It is always a tragedy. Indeed, if employees of the Wagner company were there, and the preliminary data indicate they were, I would like to note that these people made a significant contribution to our common cause of combating the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine, we remember this, we know it and we shall not forget.
“I had known Prigozhin for a very long time, since the start of the ’90s. He was a man with a difficult fate, and he made serious mistakes in life. And he strove for the results he needed for himself, and when I asked him about it, for the common cause, as in these last months. He was a talented person, a talented businessman, he worked not only in our country, and worked with results, but also abroad, in Africa, in particular. He was involved there with oil, gas, precious metals and stones.
“As far as I know, he just returned yesterday from Africa. He met some officials here. But what is quite definite – the head of the Investigative Committee reported to me this morning – is they have already begun a preliminary investigation into this event. And it will be carried out in full, and taken right to the end. There are no doubts about this.
“Let’s see what the investigators say in the near future. And now, expert examinations, technical examinations and genetic ones are being carried out. This takes some time.”