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Russia says 10 bodies and flight recorders have been recovered from the scene of a jet crash presumed to have killed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“Molecular-genetic tests are now being carried out,” investigators say.

The plane crashed near Moscow on Wednesday, prompting speculation that a bomb or a missile was to blame.

Claims that the Kremlin gave an order to kill Prigozhin were a “complete lie”, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman told the BBC earlier.

Prigozhin – once a Putin loyalist – led an aborted armed revolt by his mercenary fighters in June.

Mr Putin at the time described the mutiny as “treachery”, but a deal was later struck for Wagner mercenaries to either join Russia’s regular army or go to Belarus – Moscow’s ally.

Even so, in the wake of the rebellion, many observers described Prigozhin, 62, as a “dead man walking”, arguing that the Russian president would never forgive the Wagner boss.

During Friday’s conference call with journalists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC there was “lots of speculation” around the “tragic” deaths of all 10 people in Wednesday’s air crash in the Tver region, north-west of the Russian capital.

Prigozhin and his right-hand man Dmitry Utkin, as well as five other passengers and three crew members, were on board of the Embraer Legacy 600 jet, according to the passenger list.

“In the West, of course, this speculation comes from a certain angle. It’s all a complete lie,” Mr Peskov went on.

“We don’t have many facts at the moment, the facts need to be clarified during the official investigation which is being carried out now,” he added.

And despite the jet’s manifest, Mr Peskov refused to be drawn on whether the Kremlin had confirmation that Prigozhin was definitely on board the downed plane.

The future of Wagner itself has also been thrown further into doubt by Prigozhin’s presumed death.

On Friday, Belarus’ leader Aleksander Lukashenko said that up to 10,000 Wagner fighters would continue to be based in the country.

However, many experts believe that Mr Lukashenko takes orders from the Kremlin.

President Putin stayed silent over the crash for almost 24 hours, before expressing condolences to all the victims’ families.

He also described Prigozhin as a “talented person” who “made serious mistakes in life”.

But from the moment the plane came down, there has been frenzied speculation about what caused the crash.

The Pentagon says it believed the Wagner chief was probably killed, while a US official told CBS News that the most likely cause of the crash was an explosion on board the plane.

President Joe Biden said on Friday that the US was still trying to “nail down” precisely what brought down the plane.

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