The Kremlin has confirmed Vladimir Putin did not attend Yevgeny Prigozhin’s funeral, as his family said he had been laid to rest today.
His spokespeople said a “farewell ceremony” had taken place behind closed doors, but they did not elaborate.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, declined to reveal where or when the chief of the Wagner Group was to be buried, saying he couldn’t comment on a private family ritual.
According to St Petersburg’s Fontanka news source and other media, Prigozhin, 62, was laid to rest today.
Heavy police cordons surrounded a cemetery, where Putin’s parents are also buried, but no service was held, and heightened police patrols were also spotted at some other city cemeteries.
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Later, a funeral was held at St Petersburg’s Northern Cemetery for Wagner’s logistics head Valery Chekalov, who died alongside Prigozin in the plane crash.
The strict secrecy and turmoil surrounding Prigozhin’s and his top lieutenants’ funeral reflected problems faced by the Kremlin as rumours grow the crash was a revenge for his mutiny.
While the Kremlin attempted to avoid any pomp and circumstance for the man Putin called a traitor for his revolt, it couldn’t afford to disparage Prigozhin, who was awarded Russia’s highest honour for directing Wagner forces in Ukraine and was idolised by many of the country’s hawks.
Prigozhin has become a legendary figure for his admirers, who are increasingly suspicious of the government, according to Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst.
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Mr Markov said: “Prigozhin’s funeral raises an issue of communication between the bureaucratic Russian government system that doesn’t have much political potential and politically active patriotic segment of the Russian public.”
On Sunday, Russia’s investigating committee confirmed that Prigozhin was among those killed in a crash last Wednesday.
According to the committee’s statement, after forensic testing, all 10 bodies recovered from the crash site have been identified, and their identities match the passenger list provided.
Across the country, spontaneous memorials have sprung up, with emotional visitors leaving flowers and other signs of respect for Prigozhin.
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Several Prigozhin-affiliated Telegram channels have speculated that his death was the result of retaliation by Russia’s “internal foes” for his brief defiance of the country’s military leadership in June.
The Wagner organisation has yet to issue an official statement in the aftermath of Prigozhin’s death.
Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said: “The Kremlin does not yet have information about the format and date of Prigozhin’s funeral, so there can be no answer to the question of whether Putin will attend it.
“As soon as a decision is made, it will be communicated to the public. Such decisions are always made together with the relatives.”
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