Putin absent during funeral for Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend the funeral of Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash just months after his short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin.
A closed-door “farewell ceremony” was held Tuesday to honor the life of the 62-year-old mercenary chief, who recently launched one of the most significant challenges to Putin’s authority in his more than 20 years of rule.
Prigozhin’s spokespeople confirmed the services were carried out and urged those who still wish to pay their respects to visit the Porokhovskoye cemetery in Prigozhin’s hometown of St. Petersburg.
Prigozhin was one of 10 people aboard an ill-fated Embraer Legacy 600 jet when it crashed north of Moscow on Aug. 23, exactly two months after he launched his mutiny and threatened to march on Moscow. Days later, an incensed Putin dubbed the Wagner Group’s actions a form of treason and accused “the organizers of the rebellion” of betraying Russia itself.
While Putin did not specifically name Prigozhin, the Russian leader further promised those involved in the uprising would “suffer inevitable punishment.”
Despite the president’s harsh words, the pair seemingly went on to strike an agreement that would resolve the feud peacefully. Prigozhin agreed to abort the coup as part of a deal with Putin that would allow him to escape terrorism charges and live freely in the allied nation of Belarus. But many people, even at the time, did not believe the mercenary chief would escape without punishment.
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The country’s top criminal investigation agency, the Investigative Committee, officially confirmed Prigozhin’s death on Sunday. It stopped short of saying what might have caused his business jet to crash, but rumors have swirled that it was a revenge assassination for rising against Russian authorities.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in Prigozhin’s death.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Tuesday that Putin did not have plans to attend Prigozhin’s memorial. When asked about the arrangements, he said “the president’s presence is not envisaged,” noting that the service should be viewed as a private matter for the warlord’s family members and friends.
Once the owner of a simple hot dog stand, Prigozhin went on to open luxurious restaurants that would eventually capture the attention of the Russian president. He then expanded his catering business — oftentimes supplying meals and utility services to the Russian military — and in 2010, with Putin’s help, opened Prigozhin’s factory, which was built on generous loans from a state bank.
In Moscow alone, his company Concord won millions of dollars in contracts to provide meals to public schools.
In 2014, he co-founded the Wagner Group, a paramilitary organization used by Putin to project Russian influence. But as his forces fought and died en masse during the war in Ukraine, Prigozhin repeatedly raged against Russia’s military brass before launching his brief rebellion.
With News Wire Services