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Prigozhin’s ‘death’ seems to reveal a Russian principle – cross the Kremlin and it won’t end well

Outside a glass-fronted business centre a little way out of central St Petersburg, the mourners kept coming.

Up until just a few weeks ago, this building was known as the Wagner Centre.

It had its grand opening last November, a mark of how much both Yevgeny Prigozhin and his private military company, often called ‘the musicians’ or ‘orchestra’ in Russia, were on the ascendancy.

Today it felt as though both were being laid to rest. What a difference 10 months can make.


US ‘believes plane crash intentionally caused by explosion’ – latest updates

A photo of Yevgeny Prigozhin at a makeshift memorial next to the former PMC Wagner Centre in St Petersburg. Pic: AP

“It’s like losing a father, he was everything to us,” said one Prigozhin fan. “Everyone was waiting to hear what Uncle Zhenya would say.”

“I lost my son in Artyomsk [Bakhmut],” another said. “It was important for me to come and pay tribute to Prigozhin as a hero of Russia.”

One woman was inconsolable, her hands pressed to her face as she sobbed. We thought she had lost a loved one, but she said she was crying for Russia’s future.

“I am in so much pain because [Prigozhin] didn’t have the chance to do everything he wanted to do,” she said.

“These people wanted to bring order and now how can we talk about order? Our authorities are corrupt up to the very top. This was my last hope, for some change in the future and now I have no hope. Oligarchy and that’s all.”

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What now for the Wagner Group?

Five hours away at the crash site near Tver, investigators were still picking their way through the remains.

“Now investigations are being carried out. This will take some time,” President Vladimir Putin said sagely.

No doubt a report will eventually be filed with explanations which will satisfy no one except those looking to conceal the truth.

Read more:
Why Wagner boss’ ‘death’ proves no one is indispensable in Russia
Prigozhin plane crash: What happened?

Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin at a factory outside St Petersburg in September 2010. Pic: AP
Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin in September 2010. Pic: AP

Previous high-profile Russian targets

Thus it was with the long inquiry into Boris Nemtsov’s assassination outside the Kremlin in 2015, or Russia’s token investigation into Alexei Navalny’s poisoning in August 2020.

Both Mr Nemtsov and Mr Navalny were entirely different men to Prigozhin, Kremlin critics speaking out in defence of democracy and civil society as opposed to a Kremlin lackey who got too big for his boots.

But the principle remains the same, it seems – cross the Kremlin, whoever you are, and it won’t end well.

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‘We will all go to hell’

Circulating today on social media – an old video, released in February on pro-war Telegram channels. It is of Prigozhin and his deputy, Dmitry Utkin, who was also reportedly killed, in conversation with a Russian military blogger.

“Death is not the end, just the beginning of something else,” Utkin says, off-camera.

“We will all go to hell, but in hell we will be the best,” Prigozhin adds.


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