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New York Times: Prigozhin's burial is staged to hide true level of his support

New York Times: Prigozhin's burial is staged to hide true level of his support
Photo: EPA/UPG

The burial of the Wagner mercenary group boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was shrouded in misinformation, preventing a public display of support the Kremlin did not want to see. The funeral was accompanied by speculation and disinformation, the New York Times reports.

On the day of the mercenary owner's burial, messages about where he would be buried were widely circulated on social media and Telegram channels. There were reports (true) of increased security presence and barriers erected at several cemeteries around his hometown, St. Petersburg, and other reports (false) of hearses and a funeral cortege

"The fog of misinformation was so dense that a joke spread on social media calling it a “special funeral operation,” a pun on the Kremlin’s term for the war in Ukraine, “special military operation," the article noted.

Information about the burial could not be confirmed independently, because by the time it was released, hundreds of police officers and national guard troops ringed the entire cemetery and sealed it off to all but a few people. All that could be seen of the grave from a bridge over the cemetery were a large Russian flag, a Wagner flag there.

Prigozhin was buried without an orchestra, unlike some of the Wagner people. The mercenaries' press service said that the ceremony was closed due to the "closure of the cemetery."

The confusion about his burial and heavy security presence at Porokhovskoye ensured that the throng of supporters expected to attend never materialised. Russian state TV channels barely mentioned the funeral.

Wagner’s logistics boss, Valery Chekalov, who perished with Mr. Prigozhin, was buried on Tuesday at a ceremony that had not been publicised in advance, but was attended by several hundred people. The group’s top field commander, Dmitri Utkin, was also killed.

In the days leading up to Mr. Prigozhin’s burial, any information released was vague, conflicting, and unconfirmed by the government or Wagner.

The Brazilian-made helicopter with Prigozhin on board crashed on 23 August, exactly two months after the mercenary's owner declared mutiny and marched on Moscow. Russia claims to be investigating the cause of the crash. US officials have said they believe there was an explosion on board. Many Western officials have said they think it is likely that Mr. Putin, who has often been accused of ordering the assassinations of people he considers traitors, had Mr. Prigozhin killed as retribution for the mutiny in June. The mutiny ended with Wagner's men managing to shoot down several Russian army planes and helicopters, but eventually Prigozhin reached some sort of agreement with self-proclaimed Belarusian President Lukashenka and the march on Moscow was halted.

On the evening of 23 August, Rosaviatsiya confirmed that Prigozhin was on board the plane, as well as another mercenary leader, Utkin. None of the 10 people on board survived. The bodies were taken for examination.

"Now two months after he [Prigozhin] struck that deal, he’s been killed. So it’s, you know, it’s pretty evident what happened here," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday.

She also referred to “what Mr. Putin tends to do.”

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