- A quiet funeral for the master of self-publicity
- Secrecy prevents large gatherings marking his death
- Putin stays away from funeral
- Prigozhin was among the 10 people who died in the plane crash
ST PETERSBURG, Russia, Aug 29 (Reuters) – Endurant in life but prudent in death, Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed on Tuesday in a leafy cemetery on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, six days after being killed in an unexplained plane crash. accident
The funeral took place without the glare of the media, in stark contrast to the brash, self-promoting style that had built Prigozhin’s reputation in Russia and beyond for ruthlessness and ambition.
“The farewell to Yevgeny Viktorovich took place in a closed format. Those who wish to say goodbye can go to the Porokhovskoye cemetery,” his news service said in a short post on Telegram.
His Embraer Legacy 600 private jet crashed north of Moscow on August 23, with 10 people aboard, including Prigozhin, two top lieutenants from his Wagner group and four bodyguards.
He died two months after leading a brief uprising against the security establishment, the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s rule since he came to power in 1999.
Reuters photos and video late on Tuesday showed Prigozhin’s grave surrounded by flowers in a tree-lined cemetery, with police officers and members of the Roskvardia national guard in force nearby.
Independent news agency Agentstvo quoted a cemetery employee as saying that only 20 to 30 friends and family attended the ceremony, which lasted just 40 minutes.
The secrecy surrounding the event did not translate into massive public support for Prigozhin, a brutal figure admired by some in Russia for outspokenly abandoning his fighters in the fiercest battles of the war in Ukraine. About the shortcomings of the Russian army and its leadership.
In recent days, fans have piled flowers at makeshift shrines to Prigozhin in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere.
The Kremlin has dismissed as “absolutely false” the idea that Putin ordered his death in retaliation for the June uprising. It said earlier on Tuesday that the president would not attend the funeral.
Prigozhin took control of the southern city of Rostov in late June after insulting Putin’s top officials with a variety of crude explosives and prison slang for allegedly failing to properly fight the war in Ukraine.
His fighters shot down several Russian planes, killing their pilots, and advanced towards Moscow before retreating 200 km (125 mi) from the capital. Putin initially portrayed Prigozhin as a traitor whose rebellion could plunge Russia into civil war, although he made a deal with him to defuse the crisis.
The day after the crash, Putin sent his condolences to the families of those killed and said he had known Prigozhin for a very long time, dating back to the turbulent years of the early 1990s.
“He is a man with a difficult destiny, he made serious mistakes in life,” Putin said, describing him as a talented businessman.
Before the uprising, Prigozhin quipped that his nickname should have been “Putin’s Butcher” rather than “Putin’s Chef” — a moniker his catering company acquired after winning Kremlin contracts. He has always declared his loyalty to Putin, although he said his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, was so incompetent that he should be hanged for his betrayal.
After Prigozhin’s death, Putin ordered Wagner fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian government – something Prigozhin resisted because of his anger at the Ministry of Defense, which he said would cost him the war in Ukraine.
Genetic tests confirmed the identities of 10 people killed in the crash, including two pilots and a flight attendant, investigators said Sunday.
Earlier on Tuesday, Wagner Logistics president Valery Chekalov was buried in another St. Petersburg cemetery. His family was joined by dozens of people, some of whom Reuters identified as Wagner mercenaries and employees of Prigozhin’s business empire.
A Russian Orthodox priest offered prayers and swung an incense stick in front of Chekalov’s coffin, and mourners offered to kiss it.
Prigozhin’s right-hand man, Dmitry Utkin, Wagner’s co-founder and the group’s top military commander, was also killed in the crash.
Uncertainty now surrounds the fate of Prigozhin’s vast business empire, including mercenary operations in several African countries, where he secured large mining deals for gold and diamonds and was useful to the Kremlin in advancing Russian security interests in competition with rival powers such as France and the United States. In the states.
Written by Mark Trevelyan and Guy Falconbridge; Editing by John Boyle and Alex Richardson
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