By Andrew Osborn
MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Kremlin said that Western suggestions that Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had been killed on its orders in a plane crash were an "absolute lie" while declining to definitively confirm his death, citing the need to wait for test results.
Russia's aviation authority has said Prigozhin was on board the downed private jet, and President Vladimir Putin on Thursday sent his condolences to Prigozhin's family, breaking his silence after the plane went down on Wednesday with no survivors two months after Prigozhin led a mutiny against army chiefs.
Putin cited "preliminary information" as indicating that Prigozhin and his top associates in the Wagner mercenary group had all been killed and, while praising Prigozhin, said he had also made some "serious mistakes."
Western politicians and commentators have suggested, without evidence, that Putin ordered Prigozhin killed to punish him for launching a failed June 23-34 mutiny against the army's top brass which also represented the biggest challenge to Putin's own rule since he came to power in 1999.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the accusation and many others like it were false.
"There is now a great deal of speculation surrounding this plane crash and the tragic deaths of the plane's passengers, including Yevgeny Prigozhin. Of course, in the West, all this speculation is presented from a well-known angle," Peskov told reporters.
"All of this is an absolute lie, and here, when covering this issue, it is necessary to base yourself on facts. There are not many facts yet. They need to be established in the course of investigative actions."
Russian investigators have opened a probe into what happened, but have not yet said what they suspect caused the plane to suddenly fall from the sky northwest of Moscow.
Nor have they officially confirmed the identities of the 10 bodies recovered from the wreckage.
Asked if the Kremlin had received official confirmation of Prigozhin's death, Peskov said: "If you listened carefully to the Russian president's statement, he said that all the necessary tests, including genetic tests, will now be carried out. The official results - as soon as they are ready to be published, will be published."
Peskov, who said Putin had not met Prigozhin recently, said it was unclear how long the tests and investigative work would take.
It was therefore impossible to start talking about whether Putin would attend Prigozhin's funeral, Peskov said in answer to a question on the subject.
Asked about the future of the Wagner Group, which has series of lucrative contracts across Africa but now appears leaderless, Peskov was concise.
"I can't tell you anything now, I don't know," he said.
(Reporting by ReutersWriting by Andrew Osborn Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)