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Prigozhin buried in private funeral at St Petersburg cemetery amid increased security, says spokesperson

The funeral of Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash last week, was held privately at a cemetery on the outskirts of his hometown St Petersburg, his spokesperson said on Tuesday.

An Orthodox priest conducted a service, with several Wagner mercenaries attending alongside family and friends.

News outlets in Russia suggested earlier today the 62-year-old Wagner boss was likely to be buried in the Serafimovskoe Cemetery – where law enforcement officers were seen this morning.

An increased police presence was also reported at some other city cemeteries.

Prigozhin’s top lieutenants, who were also killed in last Wednesday’s crash, were also expected to be buried on Tuesday. One such deputy, Valery Chekalov, was laid to rest in St Petersburg earlier on Tuesday afternoon.

A video from Reuters showed a Russian Orthodox priest saying prayers and swinging before Chekalov’s coffin as family, friends and former colleagues, some holding bunches of flowers, bade farewell.

Some, including women and children in sunglasses, came forward to kiss his coffin. Unidentified mourners at the funeral told a Reuters videographer and photographer to stop filming.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had no plans to attend the funeral of the Wagner leader, the Kremlin said on Tuesday. It said Mr Putin had sent his condolences to Prigozhin’s family.

The details of the Wagner leader’s funeral were a close guarded secret for several days. “Everything has been classified, and no one’s informing us. Those immediately involved had to sign non-disclosure agreements,” said a staff member at the St Petersburg mayor’s office at the Smolny Institute told Fontanka.

The state media reported sightings of three different possible locations for the funeral ceremony in the city. On social media, independent analysts said that some funeral processions may have been “theatrics,” as reports of metal detectors placed at the Serafimovskoye cemetery to throw onlookers off track.

“Even after his death (if he died at all), Prigozhin was able to stage such a performance. Nothing like this has ever happened in the Putin era”, Russian Telegram channels reported.

Another funeral for Valery Chekalov, an ally of Prigozhin who did in the downed plane on August 23, also took place on Tuesday, Mourners were seen filing into Severnoye Cemetery. Chekalov took charge of the Wagner leader’s companies, providing catering contracts for Russian forces and making deals on oil in Syria.

The Kremlin has said that it is as an “absolute lie” to suggest that Putin ordered the death of Prigozhin as revenge for his short-lived uprising in Moscow.

Meanwhile, BBC monitoring journalist Francis Scarr noted that Russian state TV has suggested that the U.K is behind Putin’s death.

Ihor Markov, a former pro-Russian MP in Ukraine, now living in Russia, told viewers: “In my view, the intelligence agencies of only two countries were capable of doing this- the United States and Britain. Only they would have committed that act of terrorism, downed and destroyed a civilian aircraft on Russian territory.”

“The Americans would have acted differently in my view. They would have did what they did to Soleimani. They would have sent up a drone when Prigozhin was in Africa or hit him with a missile. It’s always Hollywood with them.

“This has a British signature of the British on it. Cynical, brazen, very well honed!”

He added that they immediately launched a “cover up operation” that was “covered by all the British newspapers the next day.”

Additional reporting from Reuters. This story is being updated

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