A former British intelligence officer said he received information previously that a contract had been put out on Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin by members of Russia's elite over the past few weeks, Sky News reported on Wednesday.
“We had heard some weeks ago from a source that a contract had been put out on Prigozhin in Russia by senior members of the business community,” Christopher Steele told Sky News.
He said that it would be a “mistake” to assume any assassination attempt was authorized by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
“But certainly, it looks as though it may well be a revenge attack by somebody in the elite, possibly somebody very senior.”
The former spy’s comments preceded the plane crash in which Prigozhin was said to be onboard.
The Federal Agency for Air Transport of Russia said it initiated an investigation of the crash of the Embraer plane that crashed in the Tver Region on Wednesday, the agency said in its statement, adding that the Prigozhin was included in the list of passengers of the crashed flight.
“An investigation of the Embraer plane crash that happened in the Tver Region this evening was initiated. According to the passenger list, first and last name of Yevgeny Prigozhin was included in this list,” state news agency TASS reported.
The Telegram channel affiliated with Wagner Grey Zone claimed that Prigozhin’s plane was “shot down” in the sky over the Tver region by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Steele commented on the plane crash saying that such an incident was predictable: “I think this was almost inevitable, I'm hastened to say.”
In June, expert on Russia and global fellow at the Wilson Center, Jill Dougherty, said that Prigozhin was not yet out of danger by going to Belarus since Putin would never forgive a traitor.