The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be attending the funeral of mercenary head Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash.
Some Russian media have speculated that Prigozhin’s funeral could take place as soon as Tuesday in his hometown of St. Petersburg, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refused to comment on the specifics of the funeral.
St. Petersburg’s Fontanka news source and other media have reported that Prigozhin, 62, will be buried at the Serafimovskoye cemetery, which has been the site of notable military burials in the past. The cemetery where Putin’s parents are buried was surrounded by tight police cordons on Tuesday. There have been reports of an increased police presence at other city cemeteries as well.
The bodies of Prigozhin’s top lieutenants, who also perished in the crash on Wednesday, were to be brought to St. Petersburg for burial.
The Investigative Committee, Russia’s premier criminal investigation agency, confirmed Prigozhin’s death on Sunday.
Minutes after taking off from Moscow bound for St. Petersburg, Prigozhin’s business jet crashed into the ground. The committee gave no explanation for this. Prigozhin had recently returned from Africa, where he had been seeking expansion opportunities for Wagner Group, just before the crash.
Western authorities have referred to a long list of Putin’s enemies who have been slain, and a preliminary US intelligence assessment indicated that a deliberate explosion caused the jet to go down. As far as the Kremlin is concerned, claims from the West that the Russian president was responsible for the crash are completely false.
A rebellion led by Prigozhin against the Russian military command had just begun when the crash occurred, with his mercenaries having taken over the military headquarters in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and then marching on Moscow.
They shot down many military planes, killing over a dozen pilots.
Putin called the uprising “treason” and threatened to punish those responsible, but he quickly reached a deal with Prigozhin to halt the rebellion in exchange for amnesty and the opportunity to relocate to Belarus with his men.
Wagner’s chief of logistics, Valery Chekalov, and Prigozhin’s number two, Dmitry Utkin, both perished in the accident. Former military intelligence officer Utkin gave the organization his nom de guerre and oversaw all of its military endeavors.
Wagner’s future is in doubt because of its major position in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine and its involvement in other African and Middle Eastern countries.
Putin stated that Wagner soldiers had the option to either accept a contract with the Russian military, relocate to Belarus, or retire. Thousands have been sent to a camp southeast of Minsk, Belarus’s capital.
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