Photographs of a monument to the founders of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin were posted on social media sites linked to the private military company (PMC). The memorial has been erected in front of the Wagner’s “Chapel to the Memory of Fallen Soldiers” on the edge of a forested areas close to the city of Goryachy Klyuch, in the Krasnodar Territory, 40 kilometers from Krasnodar city.

Prigozhin, the 62-year-old co-founder of the Wagner Russian mercenary group was a former convict during the Soviet era, who became a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin until he launched his aborted mutiny against the regime in June 2023. Prigozhin known to many as “Putin's chef” who owned restaurants and catering businesses that frequently catered events hosted by the Kremlin. Prigozhin controlled a network of businesses all of which were linked to Putin, the Defense Ministry and the GRU military intelligence department.

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Dmitry Utkin, 53, was a former GRU special forces Lt. Col. Who received several decorations for bravery serving in Chechnya and Syria. He was the co-founder and military commander of the funded Wagner Group, which was named after his military alias. Utkin had tattoos that, along with other reports, suggested he was a neo-Nazi. He rarely appeared in public and was reputed to be Prigozhin’s right-hand man and “enforcer.”

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Both men died along with five other Wagner fighters and three crew in a plane crash in the Tver region on Aug. 23, 2023. Yevgeny Prigozhin's business jet Embraer ERJ 135 crashed, en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg, following an explosion in or on the aircraft exactly two months after the June 2023 failed armed rebellion.

The statue depicts the two men in combat uniforms and body armor, Prigozhin holding a two-way radio and Utkin standing behind him gripping an AK-74 assault rifle automatic rifle.

Engraved on the monument’s base are representations of their dog tags above which are the words “First” and “Ninth,” their individual callsigns.

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The Wagner chapel stands in an area that contains the graves of its troops who have died on operations in Ukraine and Africa, said to be one of seven such cemeteries in Russia. Goryachy Klyuch’s municipal authorities were cited as telling  Russian media that no authorization for the statue’s installation was needed since the chapel was located on private property.

There are no official figures available for Wagner’s war losses, although thousands of mercenaries are known to have died during Russia’s war in Ukraine where Prigozhin’s soldiers-for-hire played a prominent role in 2022 and 2023.

Each grave bears the inscription: “Blood. Honor. Motherland. Courage. PMC Wagner.”

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