Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash two months after staging a short-lived mutiny, was on Tuesday laid to rest in a secret ceremony in his native Saint Petersburg.
He was believed to have been buried at the Porokhovskoye cemetery amid heightened security after his firm said a private ceremony had been held for the warlord “in a closed setting”.
The cemetery was cordoned off and access was restricted, but an AFP photographer saw the back of what appeared to be Prigozhin’s fresh grave, which was marked by a wooden cross.
At the burial site, mourners left a framed excerpt from “Nature Morte”, a poem by Soviet poet and Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky, which contains the words “dead or alive?”
Prigozhin’s press service only said that a private ceremony had been held for Prigozhin — who held the title of the Hero of Russia, the country’s top honour — at the cemetery located on the northeastern outskirts of Saint Petersburg.
“Yevgeny Viktorovich’s farewell was held in a closed setting. Those wishing to say goodbye can visit the Porokhovskoye cemetery,” his firm said.
Ukrainian officials pointed to the secrecy surrounding the ceremony, suggesting the Kremlin feared possible protests.
“The secret funeral of Wagner ex-chief Prigozhin as an absolute symbol of Putin’s genuine fear,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on messaging app Telegram.
The funeral appears to draw a curtain on an extraordinary chapter in recent Russian history that saw the Wagner boss help lead Moscow’s assaults for cities and towns in eastern Ukraine and challenge Moscow’s leadership.