Evgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner PMC, has paid a crowd of extras to attend the funeral of Dmitry Menshikov, a convict killed in Ukraine, in the military section of the Beloostrov Cemetery outside St. Petersburg. Citing a local who was paid for attending the ceremony, the Mozhem Obyasnit (“We Can Explain”) Telegram channel reports that the “guests” got $22-37 each.
According to the interviewee, only 50 people agreed to appear at the funeral for money, although the organizers hoped to rally a crowd of 400. “Extras’ rates varied, from 1,500 to 2,500 rubles. I can’t give you the exact number, but there must have been about 50 of us. They put us on buses and drove us there. Most of the extras had no clue what kind of man the deceased was,” he said.
To bury him in this particular location, Prigozhin had to resolve the conflict with the city authorities and Governor Alexander Beglov in particular. He demanded that Menshikov be laid to rest in the Alley of Glory, but the city administration refused, saying that Wagner mercenaries were not servicemen, also adding that there was no Alley of Glory in that cemetery in the first place. In response, Prigozhin penned an open letter to State Duma spokesperson Vyacheslav Volodin and got the city to open an “Alley of Courage” at the Beloostrov Cemetery in mid-December. The Alley is a section intended for servicemen and other combatants who were killed in action in Ukraine.
Dmitry Menshikov was recruited to war from the penal colony where he was serving a sentence for drug dealing. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison in February 2022. Prigozhin, who attended the funeral in person, characterized him as an “ordinary lad” who had grown up in an orphanage, had ended up behind bars, and had died in Ukraine “as a hero”.