In a solemn ceremony on Thursday, the man who is thought to have given the Russian mercenary group Wagner its name was laid to rest in a military cemetery outside of Moscow.
All 10 individuals on board a jet that crashed on August 23 also perished, including Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner, and his other key lieutenants, including Dmitry Utkin.
Two months had passed since Prigozhin led his fighters in a brief uprising against Russia’s military authorities before the collision between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The Federal Military Memorial Cemetery, where some of Russia’s most lauded military figures are buried, served as Utkin’s final resting place. Earlier memorial services at the cemetery in the Mytishchi neighborhood on the outskirts of Moscow were attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Utkin’s was a solemn occasion.
Videos that showed the burial place blocked off and police officers keeping watch were posted on Russian social media networks.
A unique portrait of Utkin was placed on his grave. His tattoos were allegedly in the form of Nazi emblems, and there were pictures of him wearing them that were previously making the rounds online.
His code name was Wagner, which later became the name of the mercenary outfit.
Wagner was a clear allusion to the German composer Richard Wagner, who was rumored to be an Adolf Hitler favorite. Initially, Utkin was believed to have founded the business, but Prighozin revealed his identity as the founder last year.
Wagner’s second-in-command was Utkin, a veteran special forces commander who had previously worked for the Russian GRU military intelligence agency and participated in Chechen battles.
According to studies by the Dossier Center and Bellingcat, he was in charge of providing direction and instruction for battle for the Wagner gang. Putin first denied that there were any connections between the mercenaries and the Russian government, but Utkin made an appearance in a video from a Kremlin reception in December 2016.
According to a preliminary U.S. intelligence assessment, the business jet that was carrying Wagner’s senior brass crashed last week as a result of an intentional explosion.
The Kremlin dismissed theories that the crash was retaliation for the Prigozhin-led uprising, calling it an “absolute lie.”
Prigozhin’s dramatic career from street thug to Kremlin-funded mercenary leader came to an end last week when he was interred in a private ceremony in his hometown of St. Petersburg.
The event was barely covered by Russian state television. In his 23 years as president of Russia, Putin’s hold on power has been tested most severely by the mutiny in June.
Last week, he stated that Wagner’s leaders “made a significant contribution” to the battle in Ukraine.
He also referred to Prigozhin as a “talented businessman” and “a man of difficult fate” who had “made serious mistakes in life.” The mercenary leader may have been aware of his own mortality, according to a brief video that was posted on the Prigozhin-affiliated Russian messaging channel Grey Zone after his death.
Prigozhin, who is seen going in an armored car, says, “For those talking about whether I’m alive or not, how I’m doing, now it’s the weekend, the second half of August 2023, and I’m in Africa.” “For those who like to discuss my elimination, private life, income, or other things, basically I’m fine.
As of Wednesday, “different versions” of the jet accident existed and “are being considered” by Russian authorities, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, including, “let’s put it this way, deliberate wrongdoing.”