- A quiet funeral for a master of self-publicity
- Secrecy prevents large crowds from commemorating his death
- Putin turns away from the funeral
- The White House suggests that the Kremlin is behind Prigozhin’s death
- Prigozhin is among 10 people who died in a plane crash
ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – Russian mercenary commander Yevgeny Prigozhin was buried peacefully in a cemetery on the outskirts of St Petersburg on Tuesday, six days after he was killed by an unidentified plane. Crashes.
The funeral took place away from the glare of the media and in stark contrast to the brazen self-publicity style with which Prigozhin, with ruthlessness and ambition, cemented his reputation in Russia and abroad.
And his press service said in a short post on the Telegram application: “Evgeny Viktorovich was seen off in private. Those who wish to see him can visit Porokhovskoye cemetery.”
Prigozhin, two senior Wagner Group associates and four bodyguards were among 10 people killed when his private Embraer Legacy 600 plane crashed north of Moscow on August 23.
He died two months after staging a brief insurrection against the defense establishment, the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s rule since he came to power in 1999.
Reuters photos and videos late Tuesday showed Prigozhin’s grave strewn with flowers in the wooded cemetery, with a strong presence of police officers and members of the Rosgvardia National Guard near it.
The independent news agency Agentstvo quoted a cemetery employee as saying that only 20 to 30 people from friends and family attended the ceremony and it lasted only 40 minutes.
And in Washington, the White House press secretary, Karen Jean-Pierre, made her strongest statement yet about the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Prigozhin’s killing.
“We all know that the Kremlin has a long history of killing dissidents,” she said. “It’s very clear what happened here.”
The secrecy surrounding the funeral meant it could not be turned into a large-scale public show of support for Prigozhin, a brutal figure admired by some in Russia for his involvement in the fiercest battles of the war in Ukraine and his outspokenness. About the shortcomings of the Russian army and its leadership.
In recent days, fans have laid flowers at makeshift shrines to Prigozhin in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere.
The Kremlin dismissed the claim that Putin ordered his killing as revenge for the June rebellion, calling it an “absolute lie”. She said earlier on Tuesday that the president would not attend the funeral.
After months of insulting Putin’s top brass with a variety of coarse insults and prison slang for their perceived failure to get the Ukraine war right, Prigozhin took control of the southern city of Rostov in late June.
His fighters shot down a number of Russian planes, killing their pilots, and advanced towards Moscow, before returning 200 km from the capital. At first, Putin called Prigozhin a traitor whose rebellion could have pushed Russia into civil war, though he later struck a deal with him to defuse the crisis.
The day after the accident, Putin sent his condolences to the families of those killed, and said he had known Prigozhin for a very long time, since the chaotic years of the early 1990s.
“He was a man with a difficult fate, who made serious mistakes in life,” Putin said, describing him as a talented businessman.
Before the mutiny, Prigozhin joked that his title should have been “Putin’s butcher” rather than “Putin’s chef” — a title he acquired after his catering company won Kremlin contracts. He has always declared loyalty to Putin, although he has said that his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, was so incompetent that he should be executed for his treachery.
After Prigozhin’s death, Putin ordered Wagner fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state, a move Prigozhin opposed due to his anger at the Defense Ministry, which he said risked losing the war in Ukraine.
On Sunday, investigators said genetic tests had confirmed the identities of all 10 people killed in the crash, including two pilots and a flight attendant.
Earlier on Tuesday, Valery Chekalov, head of Wagner Logistics, was buried in another cemetery in St Petersburg. His family was joined by dozens of people, some identified by Reuters as Wagner mercenaries and employees of Prigozhin’s business empire.
A Russian Orthodox priest led prayers and waved a censer in front of Chekalov’s coffin, and mourners moved forward to kiss him.
Dmitry Utkin, Prigozhin’s right-hand man, co-founder of Wagner and the group’s top military commander, was also killed in the crash.
Uncertainty now surrounds the fate of Prigozhin’s large business empire, including mercenary operations in several African countries where he made major mining deals for gold and diamonds and was instrumental to the Kremlin in advancing Russian security interests in competition with rival powers such as France and the United States. States.
Writing by Mark Trevelyan and Jay Faulconbridge. Editing by John Boyle, Alex Richardson and Alistair Bell
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