Wagner Chief Laid To Rest In Secret Ceremony

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian mercenary chief who was killed in a plane crash two months after mounting a brief rebellion, was laid to rest in a private ceremony in his hometown of Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

He was thought to have been buried at the Porokhovskoye cemetery amid increased security after his firm announced a private service for the warlord was held “in a closed setting.”

Access to the cemetery was restricted, but an AFP photographer spotted the rear of what appeared to be Prigozhin’s new grave, which was marked with a wooden cross.

At the burial site, mourners left a framed excerpt from “Nature Morte”, a poem by Soviet poet and Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky, which contains the words “dead or alive?”

Prigozhin’s press department simply stated that a private ceremony was performed at the cemetery on the northeastern suburbs of Saint Petersburg for Prigozhin, who held the title of Hero of Russia, the country’s highest honor.

“Yevgeny Viktorovich’s farewell was held in a closed setting. Those wishing to say goodbye can visit the Porokhovskoye cemetery,” his firm said.

Ukrainian officials pointed to the secrecy surrounding the ceremony, suggesting the Kremlin feared possible protests.

“The secret funeral of Wagner ex-chief Prigozhin as an absolute symbol of Putin’s genuine fear,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on messaging app Telegram.

The funeral appears to draw a curtain on an extraordinary chapter in recent Russian history that saw Prigozhin help lead Moscow’s assaults for cities and towns in eastern Ukraine and challenge Moscow’s leadership.

‘Shrouded In Secrecy’

“The funeral of Prigozhin marked the culmination of a covert operation aimed at his elimination,” wrote political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya.

“Conducted under the strict oversight of the security agencies, the entire process was shrouded in secrecy and involved deceptive tactics.”

Russian authorities said that Prigozhin died in a private jet crash along with nine other people last week.

The stunning jet crash in the Tver region occurred two months after Prigozhin directed his forces to destabilize Russia’s military leadership, in what was the most significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority since he took office in 2000.

Many military analysts believe Prigozhin’s plane was deliberately shot down, with some speculating that it was knocked out of the sky by a missile and others speculating on a bomb.

The Kremlin has denied that the crash was staged in retaliation for Wagner’s march on Moscow in June.

However, political experts suggested that, with the Russian presidential election coming up next year, Prigozhin had become a tremendous problem for the Kremlin.

Russian officials opened an investigation into air traffic violations after the crash but have not disclosed details about a possible cause.

Questions Over Death 

Putin accused Prigozhin of treason following the mutiny, but following the crash, the Russian president stated he had known Prigozhin since the early 1990s, describing him as a man who made mistakes but “achieved results.”

Putin’s remarks did little to quell rising speculation about Prigozhin’s death, with temporary memorials to the Wagner leader sprouting up across Russian towns.

The Kremlin said earlier Tuesday that Putin would not attend Prigozhin’s funeral.

“The president’s presence is not envisaged,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The Wagner unit had played a key part in Putin’s drive in Ukraine, taking on the most perilous frontline tasks while the regular army appeared to falter while suffering massive losses, according to Western sources.

Unlike Russia’s generals, who have been chastised for avoiding war, the stocky and bald Prigozhin posed for photographs alongside mercenaries ostensibly on the front lines.

Prigozhin was given permission to openly recruit new members in Russian prison camps, and he slammed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Although the magnitude of Prigozhin’s riches is unknown, he has been described as a billionaire with a massive fortune established on governmental contracts.

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