By: Sam Doak
September 8 2023
This video shows the graveyard in question undergoing renovations.
On August 23, a private plane crashed en route from Moscow to St.Petersburg. According to media reports and Russian sources, Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, leaders of the infamous private military company the Wagner Group were among those on board who were killed.
In the weeks leading up to the deaths of Prigozhin and Utkin, the position of the Wagner group and its leadership had become tenuous. Following months of public feuding with Russia’s military establishment, Wagner forces mutinied between June 23 and June 24, capturing the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, killing several Russian troops, and advancing on Moscow. Under the terms of the deal reportedly brokered to end this uprising, Prigozhin and his fighters were to relocate to Belarus, though it appears as though this may not have been closely adhered to.
Following Prigozhin’s death, a video has circulated widely on Russian-language Telegram channels and more mainstream social media platforms. It shows a man dressed in clothes bearing the Wagner logo decrying what he claims is the destruction of a graveyard housing the remains of the mercenary group’s fighters. “Everything was demolished. What have you done? It’s a sacrilege,” he says, “All of the tombs were destroyed.”
Several social media users have assumed that this shows Wagner graves being destroyed following June’s mutiny and Prigozhin’s subsequent death. While this narrative appears at first glance to be substantiated by this footage, Logically Facts has determined that this is not the case.
This claim has previously been reported on by the BBC’s Russian-language service on Telegram. In its coverage, the BBC states, “Residents of Nikolaevka told the BBC that the work of heavy equipment at the burial site began at least on August 19, that is, long before the crash of the plane, on board of which Prigozhin could be.”
According to the BBC, the work being carried out in this video is not a demolition but a renovation of the site. On this, the BBC states, “In an informal conversation, cemetery workers also confirmed that they are “carrying out planned landscaping on the instructions of management” at the burial site. Work is expected to be completed in early September.”
“Judging by the reconstruction project, a photograph of which local residents shared with the BBC, they plan to erect monotonous pyramids with the names of the victims in place of the crosses.”
In its coverage, France 24 uncovered Russian media coverage of alterations to this site published by the news agency Blocknot. This article claims that the graveyard in question, located in the town of Bakinskaya, was due to undergo significant renovations, including replacing wooden graves with stone monuments. Crucially, these plans were reported on April 11, 2023, months before the Wagner mutiny and Prigozhin’s death.
According to available reports, this video shows a graveyard housing the remains of Wagner soldiers undergoing renovations that were planned months before the mutiny and Prigozhin’s subsequent death. This claim has therefore been marked as false.