Putin has no plans to attend Prigozhin’s funeral, says Kremlin

Vladimir Putin has no plans to attend the funeral of the Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Kremlin spokesperson has said, amid reports of the first funeral proceedings for Wagner members killed in a plane crash last week.

Speaking to journalists during his daily call, Dmitry Peskov said the funeral arrangements were a matter for the warlord’s family, adding that Moscow did not know when the funeral would take place.

“The president’s presence [at Prigozhin’s funeral] is not envisaged. We don’t have any specific information on the funeral,” he added.

Prigozhin died when his business jet crashed last week, two months after he staged an aborted mutiny against Russian military commanders in which his Wagner troops briefly took control of the southern city of Rostov and advanced towards Moscow.

The Russian investigative committee has not yet put forward a list of possible causes of the crash but preliminary western intelligence assessments concluded that an intentional explosion killed the mercenary head along with nine others.

The US president suggested Putin could be behind the plane crash. “There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind,” Joe Biden told reporters last week.

The Kremlin has denied it killed the Wagner chief, calling western intelligence assessments of Putin’s potential involvement “an absolute lie”.

But many in Moscow have also speculated that the Russian government could have been behind Prigozhin’s death.

Several channels on the telegram messaging app close to Prigozhin have suggested “enemies within Russia” had him killed in retaliation for his mutiny against Russia’s military leadership in June.

Makeshift memorials have sprung up across the country, with tearful visitors leaving flowers and other tributes.

Fontanka, a St Petersburg outlet, reported that the funeral service had begun on Tuesday morning for Valery Chekalov, a longtime Prigohzin ally who also died in the crash.

In a clip posted by Fontanka, a group of mourners is seen entering a chapel next to the Servenoe cemetery in St Petersburg.

Three Wagner members told the Guardian on Monday that they did not know when and where Prigozhin’s funeral would be held. “We have not been told anything. I hope he gets the farewell that he deserves,” one Wagner soldier who fought with the group in Ukraine said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Fontanka reported on Monday that Prigozhin could be buried either at the Bogoslovsky or Serofimov cemeteries in the city. On Tuesday morning, metal detector gates were seen being erected at the Serofimov cemetery, leading to further speculation that Prigozhin’s funeral may take place there.

Meanwhile, several hardline pundits urged Moscow to organise a state funeral for Prigozhin, who remained a popular figure among Russian ultra-nationalists before his death.

Igor Korotchenko, a nationalist blogger who frequently appears on state television, said on Telegram that it was “only right” that Prigozhin be given a funeral with full military honours, including a military salute and the performance of the national anthem.

As a recipient of the Hero of Russia order, the Wagner chief is entitled to full honours, but analysts have argued that the Kremlin would likely aim to play down Prigozhin’s funeral, given the uncomfortable questions his death raised over Putin’s role in the incident.

The plane crash has received modest coverage on Russian state television, a noted contrast to the widespread outrage aired over the murders of prominent propagandists, including Darya Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky,

The Kremlin will also have to strike a delicate balance over the legacy of Prigozhin, whom Putin branded as a traitor, and the broader Wagner group, which he has repeatedly praised for its fight in Ukraine

Ilya Ananyev, a pro-Kremlin commentator, said on Telegram that the funeral posed “a difficult dilemma for Vladimir Putin himself” amid widely circulating rumours in Russia that the Kremlin played a role in the crash.

“After the plane crash … conspiracy theories about ‘Putin’s trace’ in the death of Prigozhin are the most discussed,” Ananyev wrote. “The Kremlin will have to deal with the reputational risks of this theory, which, in my opinion, is almost impossible to control.”

source: theguardian.com