A ‘farewell ceremony’ for Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has taken place behind closed doors, his spokespeople have said.
Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash last week, was reportedly buried in private at a cemetery on the outskirts of his hometown of St Petersburg, his press service said on Tuesday.
‘The farewell to Yevgeny Viktorovich took place in a closed format. Those who wish to say goodbye may visit Porokhovskoye cemetery,’ it said in a short post on Telegram, accompanied by a photo of Prigozhin.
Details surrounding Prigozhin’s funeral have been left deliberately vague by Russian media, with it being widely reported that Putin is fearful of a second armed uprising by Wagner loyalists and seeks to downplay the location of the burial.
Earlier media reports about the funeral mentioned other cemeteries in the city as likely sites for the burial, which has remained shrouded in secrecy.
It was not clear from the statement if Prigozhin had already been buried or if it was still to happen.
Earlier today it was announced that Putin would not be attending the ‘farewell ceremony’, with a statement from his spokesman reading: ‘The president’s presence at the funeral is not intended. We do not possess any information regarding the funeral specifically, the decisions are made by family, and we cannot speak for them.’
However, Ukrainian sources have suggested that the entire notion of the funeral is little more than a ‘performance’ to distract the public, citing several inconsistencies with the supposed service.
Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, tweeted: ‘The funeral procession in St. Petersburg turned out to be a performance. The body wasn’t there. It was a distracting act.’
Information about the burying of the Wagner PMC leader and his commanders has been based on assumptions, with 6 of the 7 mercenaries killed in the plane crash to be buried at Serafimovskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg.
However, Gerashchenko reported that: ‘despite the fact that the central entrances to Serafimovskoye cemetery, where the funerals of the leaders of the Wagner PMC might take place, are blocked and metal detectors are installed at the entrances, there are no freshly dug graves and signs of preparation for the funerals.
‘Cemetery diggers and employees are waiting for further instructions at both Serafimovskoye cemetery and Smolenskoye cemetery. The latter is not far from Manezh, the place where a funeral service supposedly for Prigozhin was performed.
‘Later, supposedly Prigozhin’s coffin was loaded from Manezh into a hearse, but it was driven so close to the building that nothing could be seen.’
According to local media, unusual activity was also spotted at the nearby Beloostrovskoye cemetery, where a hearse and sturdy men were seen driving up to the cemetery but no service reportedly took place.
‘Prigozhin will be buried with a very small group present and with a funeral service in a church in a small cemetery,’ a source told Russian media, before later confirming there has been no official requests for the funeral at the Beloostrovskoye cemetery.
‘Even after his death (if he died at all), Prigozhin was able to stage such a performance,’ Russian Telegram channels reported. ‘Nothing like this has ever happened in the Putin era’.
Progozhin died on August 23, two months to the day after he staged an attempted mutiny in what amounted to the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s rule since his rise to power in 1999.
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