By Carolina Pulice and Gabriel Araujo
(Reuters) -The Embraer executive jet model that crashed in Russia, apparently with Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin on board, has only recorded one accident in more than 20 years of service, and that was not related to mechanical failure.
Russian authorities said Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on a private jet that crashed on Wednesday evening, killing all those on board. Russia’s TASS news agency said the plane was a Brazilian Embraer jet.
Embraer said it was aware of a plane crash in Russia involving a Legacy 600 aircraft, but it did not have further information about the case and had not been providing support services for the jet since 2019.
“Embraer has complied with international sanctions imposed on Russia,” the planemaker said. Sanctions block Western planemakers from providing parts or support for planes operated in Russia.
Flightradar24 online tracker showed that the Embraer Legacy 600 (plane number RA-02795) said to be carrying Prigozhin had dropped off the radar at 6:11 p.m. local time (1511 GMT). An unverified video on social media showed a plane resembling a private jet falling out of the sky toward the earth.
The aircraft, manufactured in 2007, fell under U.S. Treasury sanctions in 2019 when it was listed under a prior registration, M-SAAN, according to a U.S. government press release.
It said that by October 2018, Prigozhin’s employees had arranged for the purchase of the private jet M-SAAN, which was registered under the owner Autolex Transport, a company cited in the release for materially assisting Prigozhin.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against Prigozhin for attempting to influence the U.S. 2018 elections, the Sept. 30, 2019 release said.
The idenfication codes of the aircraft, mentioned in OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List (SDN List) match those of the crashed plane with the tail number RA-02795 as listed in the Russian Aircraft Registry.
The same plane was spotted flying to Belarus from Russia after the failed mutiny in late June, presumably carrying Prigozhin to Minsk.
The owner of the crashed jet, according to the Federal Agency for Air Transport (Rosaviatsiya), was a Russian firm MNT-Aero which was added to the SDN list under its old name Alkon in April 2021 due to links to Prigozhin.
It changed the name to MNT Aero five days after sanctions were imposed, and its co-owners Kirill Shcherbakov and Artem Stepanov, also both on the SDN list, sold the firm to Olga Gubareva in September 2022.
Gubareva, Shcherbakov and Stepanov did not respond to Reuters’ questions.
The Legacy 600 entered service in 2002, according to International Aviation HQ, with almost 300 produced until production ceased in 2020.
There is only one recorded accident involving a Legacy 600, according to International Aviation HQ, which occurred in 2006 when one crashed mid-air into a Gol Boeing 737-800 on its way from the Embraer factory in Brazil to the United States.
The Boeing commercial airliner was downed and all 154 passengers killed. The pilot of the Embraer plane landed it without any deaths or injuries aboard that aircraft.
Two years later, a Brazilian air force report blamed two U.S. pilots, traffic controllers and faulty communications for the mid-air collision.
At the time, a lawyer for the pilots said individual air traffic controllers and flaws in Brazil’s air traffic control system caused the accident.
(Additional reporting by Allison Lampert and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Gabriel Stargardter, Stephen Coates and Andrew Heavens)