Investigators looking into the crash that killed brutal Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin are turning their attention away from engineers who worked on the doomed aircraft and are focusing instead on “potential buyers” of the plane.
That, at least, is what’s being reported by a pro-Kremlin website, which claims experts are now “sceptical” that repairs carried out before the final flight had anything to do with the crash.
Any developments reported from within Russia will be treated with caution by outside observers and Western intelligence agencies, given the strong suspicion that dictator Vladimir Putin was behind the downing of the plane.
READ MORE: 'Real' Putin 'hasn't been seen in public for a year' and 'can't even get out of bed'
Nine other people were on board the Embraer Legacy 600 on August 23, with all of them killed alongside Prigozhin.
MK.RU is reporting that investigators are ruling out any “external influence” on the plane, suggesting they don’t think it was brought down by a missile or another aircraft.
It had been reported that engineer Sergey Kitrish, 41, was initially under interrogation because he’d worked on the plane before its final flight.
But according to MK.RU, neither piece of equipment that was repaired “could have caused a critical situation in flight”.
And every member of the ground crew had successfully passed a polygraph test that asked them their views of Prigozhin.
Investigators say they are now focusing on a device being placed aboard by a third party before the doomed flight.
The report states that as well as initially being suspicious of the ground staff, they are looking at “potential buyers who visited the plane on the morning of August 23, a few hours before the crash”.
Those already reported to have visited the plane are VIP airline Rusjet boss Alexandra Yulina, 37, and Rusjet technical director Sergey Klokotov.
The glamorous Yulina is said to have been interested in making an offer for the aircraft, and the pair were allowed through security at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport to have a look at it just hours before it took off for the final time.
Prigozhin’s plane manager – a woman who hasn’t been named – said she was present, and there was no way the visitors could have planted a device on board.
But what seems to have raised eyebrows was the fact that the visitors were falsely registered as passengers in order to gain access, according to reports.
Prigozhin, who used to be best pals with Mad Vlad, had been in charge of a group of grim mercenaries fighting for Putin in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Many of those recruited by his Wagner Group were violent prisoners who’d been freed from jail in return for signing up to head for Ukraine.
But Prigozhin fell out with his former buddy when he mounted a short-lived coup attempt against the Russian president a few months ago.
The warlord’s imminent demise had been widely predicted following the coup attempt, which is why the finger of suspicion for the plane crash is being pointed at Putin.
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