President Vladimir Putin will not attend the funeral of Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Kremlin said Tuesday.
Prigozhin was one of the 10 people on board his private jet when it crashed in the Tver region northwest of Moscow last Wednesday. Russian authorities confirmed Prigozhin’s death on Sunday.
“The president is not expected to attend [Prigozhin’s funeral],” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“We don’t have any information about the funeral. After all, it’s up to the family and friends to decide on this matter. We can’t say anything here without them,” he added.
Prigozhin’s death came two months after he launched a short-lived mutiny against Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and army chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov on June 23-24, marking the biggest threat yet to Putin’s rule.
The timing of the Aug. 23 jet crash has fueled speculation of Putin’s involvement, which Peskov denied as “absolute lies.”
Prigozhin is expected to be buried with military honors given his involvement in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the Hero of Russia medal he was known to have received in secret.
The timing and location of Prigozhin’s funeral remains shrouded in mystery, with analysts suggesting the Kremlin and security services are cautious about stirring “unrest” during the procession.
Police on Tuesday cordoned off at least two cemeteries in Prigozhin’s hometown, St. Petersburg, but have declined to confirm whether they did so in preparation for Prigozhin’s funeral, according to the local news website Fontanka.
Russian officials opened an investigation into air traffic violations after the crash but have otherwise not disclosed details about its possible cause.
Prigozhin, who had built his fortune through lucrative catering contracts for the Kremlin and other state enterprises, was widely seen as having represented Russia's interests in conflict zones around the world with his Wagner Group.
Wagner has been accused of war crimes and human rights abuses in the countries where it has operated.
During the invasion of Ukraine, he and Wagner entered the spotlight as a force fighting alongside the Russian military, with Prigozhin's criticism of Russia's top brass intensifying up until the point of his June mutiny.