Prigozhin complained on December 18 that the local St. Petersburg authorities refused to bury a Wagner Group fighter in burial grounds for participants of the “special operation” and instead intend to relegate private military company (PMC) fighters to a separate section, which Prigozhin called humiliating.
Prigozhin released a letter appealing to Russian State Duma Defense Committee Chairperson Andrey Kartapolov to extend combat veteran status to Wagner Group fighters. Some Russian milbloggers expressed support for this measure, claiming that any Russian citizen who fights and dies in Ukraine deserves to be buried with full military honors. Prigozhin’s appeal does not include fighters of other PMCs, however.
Prigozhin previously expressed his support for a similar measure on November 8 when the State Duma considered and passed a bill extending combat veteran status to Russian military volunteers. Prigozhin has notably feuded with Russian regional authorities in Belgorod Oblast and St. Petersburg, as ISW has previously reported.
Prigozhin’s bid for increased recognition comes as reports of systematic executions within Wagner forces emerge, suggesting that Wagner leadership is willing to go to great lengths to preserve the Wagner Group’s image as a highly disciplined force.
Russian opposition outlet The Insider reported on December 16 that Wagner forces routinely execute deserters and those who refuse to fight, especially those recruited from penal colonies. The Insider reported that Wagner has its own internal security forces to conduct the executions and that one commander—who commanded executed POW Yevgeny Nuzhin—personally witnessed several executions. Prigozhin previously expressed public support for Nuzhin’s execution, as ISW has previously reported.