Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was laid to rest yesterday (Tuesday), a week after being killed in a plane crash.
Vladimir Putin, widely suspected of ordering his former ally’s death, did not attend the private family funeral. But the president “sent his personal condolences” to the warlord’s family, the Kremlin said.
Failed coup leader Prigozhin, 62, was buried next to his father Viktor in his home city St Petersburg, where Putin, 70, was also brought up.
Pictures later showed police guarding the grave. One wreath said: “Cargo 200 we are together.”
Cargo 200 is understood to be Russian war speak for those killed in action.
The warlord’s press service said on message app Telegram: “The farewell took place in a closed format. Those who wish to say goodbye may visit Porokhovskoye cemetery.”
Prigozhin, who led a rebellion in June, was one of 10 people killed in the crash north of Moscow last Wednesday.
Many accuse Putin of giving the order to down the plane in an act of revenge. Russia has launched a criminal investigation into the crash.
Meanwhile, the last pictures of Prigozhin days before his death showed the plain-clothed warlord smiling with locals in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, one of many African nations where Wagner troops are deployed.
Shortly afterwards, Prigozhin flew to Mali, where he wore military fatigues, clasped a rifle and declared: “Wagner makes Russia greater on all continents, and Africa more free.”
The oligarch then returned to Russia before taking the doomed flight from Moscow to St Petersburg.
Yesterday, remaining Wagner members said the funeral plans had been so secret, even they had not been told details.
Tearful visitors left flowers and other tributes to Prigozhin at makeshift memorials that sprung up throughout Russia.
In St Petersburg, a “distressed” Wagner fighter identified as Yuri Novikov was detained after shooting in the air with an AK-47 rifle.
The crash happened two months to the day since Prigozhin and his mercenaries took control of the southern city of Rostov before advancing towards Moscow.
But the oligarch and his troops turned back just 125 miles from the capital. Genetic tests have confirmed Prigozhin was among those killed in the plane crash, investigators said at the weekend.
The Kremlin has called Western suggestions Putin was behind his death as an “absolute lie”.
The president had called the mutiny “treachery”, but later struck a deal for Wagner mercenaries to either join Russia’s army or go to neighbouring ally Belarus.
However, many observers described Prigozhin as a “dead man walking”, saying Putin would never forgive the Wagner boss.
At the weekend, the president ordered the remaining 10,000 Wagner fighters to sign an “oath of allegiance” to the Russian state.
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