Yevgeny Butusov, Deputy General Director for Ground Handling of the 223rd Flight Detachment airline of the Russian Defense Ministry, was detained in Moscow. This is reported by TASS with reference to law enforcement agencies.
The 223rd flight detachment belongs to the aviation route network of the Ministry of Defense, which covers the Middle East and Africa, in particular, it delivered Wagner PMC fighters from Russia to Syria, Sudan, Libya and the Central African Republic.
At the end of January 2019, the Security Service of Ukraine published a statement by the head of the service, Vasily Hrytsak, that Wagner PMC mercenaries participated in the dispersal of protests in Sudan. The statement also said that Russian mercenaries were transported to Africa by Ministry of Defense planes.
“According to the contract No. В218/04/119 dated July 30, 2018 (total amount of 56 million Russian rubles) between the above-mentioned M Invest LLC and the 223rd flight detachment of the RF Ministry of Defense, Tu-154M aircraft (tail numbers RA-85041, RA -85155) in the five months of 2018, eight flights were carried out from Moscow (via the Russian Khmeimim air base in Syrian Latakia) to the capital of Sudan, Khartoum," the SBU said in a statement.
At that time, Current Time received information about payments from the M Invest account using the details of the 223rd flight detachment. The publication found out that "M Invest" regularly pays for the 223rd flight squadron services for the implementation of "charter transportation of passengers." Only in the period from August to December 2018, M Invest made seven transfers for a total amount of more than 50 million rubles.
"Radio Liberty" noted that the regularity of their flights to the Middle East, the planes of this detachment earned the nickname "Syrian minibuses."
In June 2022, investigators from The New York Times also wrote about the connection of the flight squad with PMC Wagner. Using geolocation services, they confirmed the data of the Sudanese anti-corruption agency, which reported that from February to June 2021, there were 16 Russian cargo flights from the Syrian city of Latakia to the Sudanese Port Sudan. Some of the flights were carried out by the 223rd flight detachment of the Russian Defense Ministry, and they started from an airfield in the Moscow region.