ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — A personal burial was held for Yevgeny Prigozhin, ending a tumultuous journey from St. Petersburg avenue thug to Kremlin-financed mercenary chief, following a suspicious aircraft crash two months after his temporary mutiny that challenged the authority of President Vladimir Putin.
His spokespeople stated Tuesday a service occurred behind closed doorways, and directed “those that want to bid their farewell” to the 62-year-old head of the Wagner non-public army contractor to go to the Porokhovskoye cemetery in his hometown. Their assertion ended media hypothesis on the place and when Prigozhin could be laid to relaxation, along with his funeral shrouded in secrecy.
A picket cross towered over his flower-covered grave. Close by stood a Russian tricolor and a black Wagner flag. Russian media cited unidentified sources as saying Prigozhin was laid to relaxation Tuesday with none publicity, per his household’s needs.
Members of the Russian Nationwide Guard had been stationed alongside the fence on the cemetery, steering guests away after it closed for the day.
Putin’s spokesman stated the president wouldn’t attend the service. The Russian chief had decried the armed revolt in June as “treason” and “a stab within the again.”
Russian state tv, which for many years has served as the primary supply of data for the overwhelming majority of Russians, barely lined the funeral in any respect.
One main channel, Russia 1, devoted lower than one minute of air time to it in its night information bulletin, solely to say that the funeral ceremony occurred “with out outsiders and the press on the request of the household” and that Prigozhin’s grave is true subsequent to that of his father, who died in 1978. One other fashionable station, Channel One, ignored it utterly of their night information.
The secrecy and confusion surrounding the funeral of Prigozhin and his high lieutenants mirrored a dilemma confronted by the Kremlin amid swirling hypothesis that the crash was probably a vendetta for his June 23-24 rebellion.
Whereas it tried to keep away from any pomp-filled ceremony for him, the Kremlin couldn’t afford to denigrate Prigozhin, who reportedly acquired Russia’s highest award for main Wagner forces in Ukraine and was idolized by lots of the nation’s hawks.
Putin’s feedback on Prigozhin’s demise mirrored that cautious stand. He famous final week that Wagner leaders “made a major contribution” to the combating in Ukraine and described Prigozhin as a “proficient businessman” and “a person of adverse destiny” who had “made severe errors in life.”
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst, famous that Prigozhin has turn into a legendary determine for his supporters who’re more and more essential of the authorities.
“Prigozhin’s funeral raises a problem of communication between the bureaucratic Russian authorities system that doesn’t have a lot political potential and politically energetic patriotic phase of the Russian public,” Markov stated.
The secretive service “grew to become the ultimate stage of a particular operation to eradicate him,” stated Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow on the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Heart.
“All the pieces was as closed as potential, underneath full management of the safety forces, with distracting maneuvers,” she stated in a commentary on her Telegram channel.
The nation’s high legal investigation company, the Investigative Committee, formally confirmed Prigozhin’s demise on Sunday.
The committee didn’t say what may need triggered Prigozhin’s enterprise jet to plummet from the sky on Aug. 23, minutes after taking off from Moscow for St. Petersburg. Simply earlier than the crash, Prigozhin had reportedly returned from a visit to Africa, the place he sought to broaden Wagner Group’s actions.
Additionally on Tuesday, a funeral was held at St. Petersburg’s Northern Cemetery for Wagner’s logistics chief Valery Chekalov, who was among the many 10 individuals killed within the crash. Prigozhin’s second-in-command, Dmitry Utkin, a retired army intelligence officer who gave the mercenary group its identify primarily based on his personal nom de guerre, additionally was killed.
A preliminary U.S. intelligence evaluation concluded that an intentional explosion triggered the aircraft to crash, and Western officers have pointed to an extended listing of Putin’s foes who’ve been assassinated. The Kremlin rejected Western allegations the president was behind the crash as an “absolute lie.”
Though each had been from St. Petersburg, Prigozhin and Putin weren’t recognized to be significantly shut.
Prigozhin, an ex-convict who earned tens of millions and his nickname “Putin’s chef” from profitable authorities catering contracts, served Kremlin political pursuits and helped broaden Russia’s clout by sending his mercenaries to Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic and different international locations. Wagner, some of the succesful components of Moscow’s forces, performed a key position in Ukraine the place it captured the Ukrainian jap stronghold of Bakhmut in late Might.
The crash got here precisely two months after the brutal and profane mercenary boss launched a revolt in opposition to the Russian army management. Prigozhin ordered his mercenaries to take over the army headquarters within the southern metropolis of Rostov-on-Don after which started a march on Moscow. They downed a number of army plane, killing greater than a dozen pilots.
Putin had vowed to punish the individuals however hours later struck a deal that noticed Prigozhin ending the mutiny in change for amnesty and permission for him and his troops to maneuver to Belarus.
The destiny of Wagner, which till lately performed a outstanding position in Russia’s army marketing campaign in Ukraine and was concerned in various African and Center Japanese international locations, is unsure.
Putin stated Wagner fighters may signal a contract with the Russian army, transfer to Belarus or retire from service. A number of thousand went to Belarus, the place they’re in a camp southeast of the capital, Minsk.
Related Press author Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed.