September 26, 2023

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Exclusive: Russia will not investigate Prigozhin’s plane crash under international rules

Exclusive: Russia will not investigate Prigozhin’s plane crash under international rules

A photographer photographs the wreckage of the private plane associated with Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin near the crash site in Tver region, Russia, August 24, 2023. REUTERS/Marina Lytseva/File photo Obtain licensing rights

SAO PAULO/MONTREAL (Reuters) – Russia has told Brazil’s Aircraft Investigation Authority that it will not investigate the crash of the Brazilian-made Embraer jet that killed mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin under international rules “for the time being”. The Brazilian agency told Reuters on Tuesday.

Prigozhin, two of his top aides at the Wagner Group and four bodyguards were among 10 people killed when the Embraer Legacy 600 crashed north of Moscow last week.

He died two months after staging a brief insurrection against Russia’s defense establishment, the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s rule since he came to power in 1999.

Brazil’s Center for Aviation Accident Research and Prevention (CENIPA), for the improvement of aviation safety, said it would join a Russia-led investigation if it was invited and the investigation was conducted under international rules.

Russia’s aviation authority was under no obligation to say yes to CENIPA, but some former investigators said it should, as the United States and other Western governments suspect the Kremlin was behind the Aug. 23 crash of the Embraer Legacy 600, which has a good safety record. .

The Kremlin denies any involvement. Prigozhin has publicly criticized Moscow’s pursuit of the invasion of Ukraine. Wagner’s mercenaries fought battles there on the side of Russia.

According to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is based in Montreal, the flight from Moscow to St Petersburg was domestic, so not subject to the international rules known throughout the industry by its legal name “Annex 13”.

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There is no obligation to accept the international rules

“They are not obligated, they only recommend that we do,” Brigadier Joy Marcelo Moreno, head of CENIPA, told Reuters after the agency sent an email last week asking Russia if it would open such an investigation.

He added, “But if they say they will open the investigation and invite Brazil, we will participate from afar.”

John Cox, a US aviation safety adviser and former investigator, said the Russian internal investigation would always be questionable without the involvement of Brazil, the country where the plane was built.

“I think it’s very sad,” said Cox, after being informed of the Russian response. “I think this damages the transparency of the Russian investigation.”

CENIPA said in an emailed statement that it received a response from the Interstate Aviation Committee – Accident Investigation Committee (IAC) on Tuesday, in which the Russian authority said it would not, for the time being, open an Annex 13 investigation.

In air crash investigations, experts work to improve flight safety without assigning blame, but the investigations are often tainted by political interests.

CENIPA and manufacturer Embraer want to prevent future incidents, but they face challenges getting information from the investigation due to sanctions imposed on Russia and Moscow’s reluctance to allow external scrutiny.

Some 802 Embraer regional jets of 37 to 50 seats, built on the same platform as the corporate Legacy 600, are in service, underscoring Brazil’s interest in the investigation.

Embraer declined to comment.

Jeff Guzzetti, a former US air accident investigator, said Russia should accept help from Brazil, even if CENIPA can only participate remotely.

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“If they don’t, that’s a sure sign it won’t be a transparent investigation.”

The Rules take their name from an appendix to the Convention on International Civil Aviation – better known as the 1944 Chicago Convention – and the Rules represent a simple but effective form of international cooperation that is rarely challenged.

Safety officials said that by promoting unusually close technical cooperation across political boundaries and shying away from issues of blame, Annex 13 has greatly improved air safety since it was first introduced.

(Reporting by Alison Lambert in Montreal, Gabriel Araujo in São Paulo and Valerie Encina in Washington; Reporting by Mohammed for The Arabic Bulletin; Editing by Mohammed Al Yamani) Editing by Denny Thomas and Grant McCall

Our standards: Principles of Trust for Thomson Reuters.

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Gabriel is a reporter based in São Paulo, Brazil covering Latin American financial and breaking news from the region’s largest economy. A graduate of the University of Sao Paulo, he joined Reuters while in college as a commodities and energy intern and has been with the company ever since. She previously covered sporting events – including football and Formula 1 – for Brazilian radio stations and websites.