Putin sends plane to Washington DC to retrieve ‘key diplomats’ days after failed Wagner


Russia has sent a government plane to Washington DC to bring a group of diplomats back to Moscow, days after the Wagner group mutiny was quashed.

The State Department confirmed the landing of the plane, and said it was a routine procedure – reminding Russia that they expect them to honor the same protocols for returning U.S. diplomats.

But the move comes amid deep unease at this weekend’s insurgency led by Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, and will provide officials in Moscow with a chance to hear from the returning diplomats how events were seen in the United States.

The plane, an Ilyushin Il-96-300, took off from Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport at 10:05am on Tuesday.

It flew a circuitous route, heading directly north to skirt E.U. airspace before crossing the Atlantic.

It landed at Dulles airport in Washington DC at 2:08pm, after an 11 hour journey.

This is the Russian government plane, an Ilyushin Il-96-300, which has been sent from Moscow to pick up diplomats in Washington DC. It landed in the U.S. on Tuesday afternoon, and remained on the tarmac at Dulles airport on Tuesday night

This is the Russian government plane, an Ilyushin Il-96-300, which has been sent from Moscow to pick up diplomats in Washington DC. It landed in the U.S. on Tuesday afternoon, and remained on the tarmac at Dulles airport on Tuesday night

The plane flew a highly unusual route, avoiding E.U. airspace. A standard flight path is shown with the dotted line

The plane flew a highly unusual route, avoiding E.U. airspace. A standard flight path is shown with the dotted line

A State Department spokesperson confirmed the flight to i News.

‘The US government has allowed the Russian government to send a charter flight to the United States to transport to Russia those Russian diplomats whose assignments have ended.

‘We also maintain strict reciprocity with Russia regarding special transport missions.’

Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesman, later told reporters: ‘In exchange for granting these courtesies, we expect Russia to maintain open transport for our diplomats and cargo to our embassy in Moscow.’

The plane has a capacity, when configured for the maximum number of seats, for 262 people.

It is not known how many boarded, and how many disembarked.

A former U.S. intelligence agent told i News that the plane could also contain intelligence agents, who may want to meet with their U.S. counterparts. 

The intelligence official, who spent decades identifying Russian agents for the US government, told the site that ‘if deemed appropriate’ the Russian diplomats would schedule ‘high-level diplomatic meetings’ with the U.S. State Department. 

‘We will just have to wait and see,’ the former U.S. asset said.

Vladimir Putin is seen on Tuesday during his meeting with officers of Russian army and secret services who prevented the Wagner invasion

Vladimir Putin is seen on Tuesday during his meeting with officers of Russian army and secret services who prevented the Wagner invasion

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company

Members of the Wagner Group military company sit on a tank in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Saturday - the day after seizing the city. They left on Sunday

Members of the Wagner Group military company sit on a tank in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Saturday – the day after seizing the city. They left on Sunday

The plane has in the past week flown to Asia, landing in Delhi at the same time as India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, was being feted at the White House by Joe Biden.

India remains a crucial trading partner for Russia, but Modi’s visit was hoped to reduce India’s dependence on Moscow for arms, economic ties and technology.

It was also intended to convince the Indian government to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

India has so far avoided voting against Russia or criticizing Vladimir Putin since the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. 

The plane was also, in the last week, in Vietnam, ahead of a planned visit by the head of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma.

Volodin Vyacheslav Victorovich was expected to be in Vietnam at the weekend, but called off his trip amid the Wagner uprising.

Putin is seen with Volodin Vyacheslav Victorovich, chair of the State Duma, in 2017. The powerful politician was due to be in Vietnam this weekend, and the government plane was in Hanoi in the days before the aborted uprising

Putin is seen with Volodin Vyacheslav Victorovich, chair of the State Duma, in 2017. The powerful politician was due to be in Vietnam this weekend, and the government plane was in Hanoi in the days before the aborted uprising

Vietnam relies on Russia for much of its military equipment, and Russia has significant energy investments in Vietnam.

But the U.S. is trying to encourage international condemnation of the Ukraine invasion. Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, was in Vietnam in April.

The dust on Prigozhin’s shocking move to march through Russia towards Moscow is yet to settle.

The militia leader is reportedly now in exile in Belarus, and analysts are noting that it is remarkable he has managed to survive.

Putin is widely seen to be severely weakened by the aborted uprising, but it is unclear how this will affect the Ukraine conflict. 



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