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‘We forced these lowlifes to give in’ Evgeny Prigozhin flouts local ban on Wagner funerals and threatens the mayor responsible
According to estimates from U.S. officials, Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has lost more than 30,000 fighters since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine. Hundreds of those men have been buried in a cemetery in the small village of Bakinskaya, not far from the official Wagner Group chapel. This weekend, though, an attempt by Wagner’s founder, Evgeny Prigozhin, to hold a funeral ceremony at that graveyard was met with pushback from local officials, who cited public opinion among village residents. Not to be deterred, Prigozhin publicly escalated the dispute, threatening to prosecute village authorities, while Wagner fighters promised violence. Here’s what we know about Prigozhin’s latest refusal to take no for an answer.
Wagner Group founder Evgeny Prigozhin and his subordinates held a funeral for mercenaries in Bakinskaya, a village in Russia’s Krasnodar Krai, on Sunday, despite earlier objections from local officials. According to the Goryachy Klyuch News Telegram channel, which published video footage of the event, the event was attended by “hundreds” of people.
Grey Zone, a Telegram channel with close links to Wagner Group, reported that local authorities ultimately gave the mercenaries permission to hold the ceremony there in response to the “public outcry” that followed their initial refusal, though this has not been confirmed.
The funeral proceedings included a speech by Prigozhin himself. “Thanks to everybody who came and everybody who supported us yesterday,” he told attendees. “We forced these lowlifes hiding in their offices to let us go through with this.”
On Saturday, Prigozhin said that officials in Goryachy Klyuch, a larger municipality that encompasses Bakinskaya, had prohibited Wagner Group from burying its mercenaries in the village’s cemetery. But despite that, he said, the funeral would still take place the following morning as planned.
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Goryachy Klyuch Mayor Sergey Belopolsky, meanwhile, wrote on Telegram that he has “respect” for Wagner Group fighters but that holding a mass funeral in the small town was “not right,” suggesting that a majority of local residents are opposed.
“I’m confident that there are enough municipalities in [Krasnodar] Krai that aren’t resort towns [like Goryachy Klyuch is] where the burial can be held and the appropriate memorials can be built,” said Belopolsky.
Just minutes later, however, Evgeny Prigozhin’s press service published what it claims is a recording of a phone conversation between a Wagner Group representative and Belopolsky. In the call, the Wagner employee says that the Goryachy Klyuch authorities initially allocated “only” 780 burial plots in the Bakinskaya cemetery to the mercenary group, and that about 500 have already been filled. He then asks where he’s supposed to put the eight bodies set to be buried at Sunday’s funeral if the administration doesn’t allow the proceedings to take place.
The voice that presumably belongs to Sergey Belopolsky then says that Krasnodar Krai Governor Veniamin Kondratyev is responsible for all issues related to Wagner Group, and that as a result, he doesn’t have the authority to help, but he nonetheless promises to talk to his boss about the issue.
In addition, Prigozhin’s press service published a written statement from Prigozhin to State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin in which he complains about local officials’ attempts to prevent him from burying Wagner fighters in Bakinskaya. The document cites the article in Russia’s Criminal Code that criminalizes “denying someone the legitimate right to bury volunteers” who died in the war in Ukraine.
In another statement, this one to Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov, Prigozhin demanded that Belopolsky be prosecuted for “discrediting” volunteers and abusing his authority.
Later on Sunday, the Wagner-linked Telegram channel Razgruzka Vagnera posted two videos that showed mercenaries issuing threats to officials in Goryachy Klyuch. “Just wait, you scumbags, for us to come and deal with you, because you, bitches, are doing more harm than the Ukrainian army, [more harm] than the Nazis, fucking Goryachy Klyuch administration,” one fighter says in one of the clips.
Wagner Orchestra, another channel with ties to the mercenary group, reported that a Wagner Group representative was called in for questioning by the Goryachy Klyuch prosecutor’s office regarding an illegal burial, though this hasn’t been confirmed, and Evgeny Prigozhin has not commented on this report.
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