Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian mercenary commander who died in a plane crash last week, will be buried in a private ceremony in St. Petersburg, his press office announced Tuesday, ending days of speculation over how he should be buried.
The announcement on the Telegram messaging app came as a surprise. Hours earlier, the Kremlin said it had no information about Mr. Prigozhin’s funeral except that President Vladimir Putin would not attend.
His press office said Mr Prigozhin’s funeral was “private”. “Those who wish to say goodbye can visit Porokhovskoye Cemetery” in St. Petersburg.
On Tuesday afternoon, Porokhovskoye Cemetery was heavily guarded by Russian police, riot police and the National Guard, who would not let people in, indicating the lengths the state has gone to keep public mourning for Mr. Prigozhin to a minimum. .
Details of Mr. Prigozhin’s funeral, including the date and whether members of the public will be allowed to attend, have not been clear for several days. There were rumors of ceremonies being held at other cemeteries, though Porokhovsky was not mentioned, and police cordoned off some and set up metal detectors at the Serafimovsky Cemetery, where Putin’s parents are buried.
The secrecy reflects the sensitivities surrounding Mr. Prigozhin, a longtime ally of Mr. Putin who launched a failed insurrection against Moscow’s military leadership in June. He was killed along with nine others, including the top leaders of his private military company Wagner, in a private plane crash northwest of Moscow last Wednesday.
Mr. Prigozhin was awarded the title of Hero of Russia, one of Russia’s highest military honours, which is generally awarded with special burials, including a guard of honor and a military band.
The confusion was in keeping with the vague details about the incident. The cause of the explosion remains unclear, but US and Western officials believe it was caused by an explosion on board the ship. Several Western officials said they believed Mr. Putin likely played a role in Mr. Prigozhin’s killing as revenge for the mercenary leader’s short-lived rebellion in June.
After the crash, Russian authorities published the plane’s flight manifest, giving the names of the 10 people who were supposed to be on board, and saying that everyone on board had died. That left days of speculation about whether Mr. Prigozhin was really on the plane.
The deaths were not officially confirmed until Sunday, when Russian investigators said genetic tests showed the crash victims matched the names in the release.
Valery Chekalov, Wagner’s head of logistics, who was also on the plane, was buried Tuesday morning at St Petersburg’s Northern Cemetery, in a ceremony that was not previously announced. Several hundred people came to pay their respects.
Some analysts have speculated that the Russian authorities were seeking to avoid an outpouring of public support for Mr. Prigozhin and his top aides.
“It seems that the authorities, as expected, want to avoid a spontaneous demonstration to commemorate the high command of Wagner, and to do so, they imposed a fog around the place of burial,” wrote Farida Rustamova, an independent journalist, on the Telegram application. Messaging application.
Valeria Safronova, Nana Heitman And Jesus Jimenez Contributed to reports.
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