Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin? Wagner Group chief killed in plane crash

As soon as a businessman with a catering empire pleasant with Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin manoeuvred himself right into a place so highly effective that, as Russia’s conflict in Ukraine progressed, he may overtly query his paymasters’ technique.

The proprietor of the Kremlin-allied Wagner Group, the mercenary pressure that has fought a number of the Russian army’s hardest battles in Ukraine – most notably the drawn-out pursuit of Bakhmut – the 62-year-old stepped into his most harmful function but this summer season: preaching open rebel in opposition to his nation’s army management.

Now, two months after his males’s tried rebellion ended in uneasy peace talks, Prigozhin is lifeless in a plane crash simply outdoors of Moscow.

Yevgeny Prigozhin has now been confirmed lifeless by Russian investigators

(Razgruzka_Vagnera telegram channel)

On 23 August, a personal plane he was on board got here down in the Tver area after taking off from the capital en path to St Petersburg, killing 10 folks on board.

4 days later, Russia’s Investigative Committee has confirmed that after genetic exams he was one of many victims. His deputies Dmitry Utkin and Valery Chekalov had been additionally on the passenger listing for the flight.

There have been claims – denied by the Kremlin – that the crash was retribution for the occasions of 23 June, when the Wagner chief lastly escalated what had been months of scathing criticism of Russia’s conduct of the conflict by calling for an armed rebellion to oust Russia’s defence chiefs Valery Gerasimov and Sergei Shoigu.

His males occupied Rostov-on-Don and marched on Moscow, taking pictures down a variety of army helicopters, killing their pilots as they superior. Russian safety companies reacted instantly, opening a legal investigation and demanding Prigozhin’s arrest.

In an indication of how significantly the Kremlin took the risk posed, riot police and the Nationwide Guard scrambled to tighten safety at key services in the Russian capital, together with authorities businesses and transport infrastructure, Tass reported. Putin branded the rebel an act of treachery.

Prigozhin urged Russian civilians to affix his “march to justice” and the state of affairs remained extraordinarily unstable all through the next Saturday earlier than peace talks, seemingly mediated by Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko, introduced the standoff to a peaceable conclusion.

Prigozhin repeatedly condemned Russia’s common military leaders


The Kremlin mentioned that to avert bloodshed, Prigozhin and a few of his fighters would go away for Belarus and a legal case in opposition to him for armed mutiny can be dropped.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed {that a} three-hour assembly had taken place 5 days after the mutiny, on 29 June with 35 folks in attendance, together with Wagner unit commanders, who reiterated their loyalty to their chief.

However confusion subsequently surrounded the implementation of that deal and it was not clear whether or not the mercenary chief ever made it to Minsk.

Earlier than lengthy, he was seen again in his homeland, showing on the Trezzini Palace Lodge in St Petersburg, apparently on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit.

On 5 July, state tv mentioned an investigation in opposition to him was nonetheless being pursued and broadcast footage exhibiting money, passports, weapons and different objects it mentioned had been seized in a raid on considered one of his properties.

In August, he appeared in a video that he recommended was shot in Africa, the place Wagner has operations in a number of international locations.

‘Putin’s chef’

The connection between Prigozhin and Putin went approach again, each having been born in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, the previous born on 1 June 1961.

Throughout the last years of the Soviet Union, whereas the president was then a lowly KGB agent, Prigozhin served 9 years in jail for crimes together with theft and fraud.

After his launch in 1990, he launched a profession as a caterer in his residence city, proudly owning a scorching canine stand after which a string of upmarket eating places that attracted Mr Putin’s curiosity. In his first time period in workplace, the Russian chief took then-French president Jacques Chirac to dine at considered one of them.

“Vladimir Putin noticed how I constructed a enterprise out of a kiosk, he noticed that I don’t thoughts serving to the esteemed company as a result of they had been my company,” Prigozhin recalled in an interview in 2011.

Prigozhin exhibiting Vladimir Putin his faculty lunch manufacturing unit outdoors St Petersburg in 2010


His companies expanded considerably into catering. Leveraging political connections, Prigozhin was awarded main state contracts and, in 2010, Mr Putin helped him open his personal manufacturing unit, constructed on beneficiant loans from a state financial institution.

In Moscow alone, faculty meals contracts for his firm Harmony had been value hundreds of thousands. He additionally organised catering for Kremlin occasions for a number of years – incomes him the nickname “Putin’s chef”, though extra not too long ago he joked that “Putin’s butcher” can be extra applicable.

Harmony has additionally supplied catering and utility companies to the Russian army.

In 2017, opposition determine and corruption fighter Alexei Navalny accused Prigozhin’s corporations of breaking antitrust legal guidelines by bidding for round £300m in defence ministry contracts.

Prigozhin reportedly had a web value of $1 billion on the time of his loss of life.

Navy connection

In 2014, he based Wagner, a Kremlin-allied non-public army firm whose mercenary fighters have come to play a central function in Mr Putin’s projection of Russian affect in hassle spots all over the world, together with Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic.

The US has sanctioned it and accused it of atrocities, which Prigozhin denied.

Wagner fighters allegedly present safety for nationwide leaders or warlords in change for profitable funds, usually together with a share of gold or different pure assets. US officers say Russia may be utilizing Wagner’s work in Africa to assist its conflict in Ukraine.

Prigozhin’s mercenaries have grow to be a serious pressure in that battle, preventing as counterparts to the Russian military in battles in opposition to Ukrainian forces.

A poster of a Russian soldier with a slogan studying ‘Glory to the heroes of Russia’ reverse the PMC Wagner Centre in St Petersburg


That features Wagner fighters battling for Bakhmut, the place the bloodiest and longest battles have taken place.

By Could this 12 months, Wagner forces and Russian troopers appeared to have largely received town, a victory with strategically slight significance for the invader, regardless of the fee in lives.

The US estimates that almost half of the 20,000 Russian troops killed in Ukraine since December had been Wagner fighters in Bakhmut.

Prigozhin’s soldiers-for-hire embody 1000’s of inmates recruited from Russian prisons.

Raging in opposition to Russia’s generals

As his forces fought and died en masse in Ukraine, Prigozhin more and more raged in opposition to the Russian army’s high brass. He used social media to trumpet Wagner’s successes and accuse the military of incompetence and even treason.

In a video launched by his crew in Could, Prigozhin stood subsequent to rows of our bodies he mentioned had been these of Wagner fighters.

He accused Russia’s common army of incompetence and of ravenous his troops of the weapons and ammunition they wanted to combat.

“These are somebody’s fathers and somebody’s sons,” Prigozhin declared bitterly. “The scum that doesn’t give us ammunition will eat their guts in hell.”

US election meddling

The previous convict and Kremlin caterer has acknowledged that he based and financed the Web Analysis Company, an organization that Washington says is a “troll farm” that meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. In November 2022, Prigozhin mentioned he had interfered in US elections and would achieve this once more.

He and a dozen different Russian nationals and three Russian corporations had been all charged with working a covert social media marketing campaign geared toward fomenting discord forward of Donald Trump’s victory. They had been indicted as a part of particular counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.

The US Treasury Division subsequently sanctioned Prigozhin and associates repeatedly in reference to each the alleged election interference and his management of Wagner.

Masks exhibiting the faces of Putin, Prigozhin and Chechnya’s regional chief Ramzan Kadyrov at a memento store in St Petersburg


After the 2018 indictment, the RIA Novosti information company quoted Prigozhin as saying, in a clearly sarcastic comment: “People are very impressionable folks; they see what they need to see. I deal with them with nice respect. I’m by no means upset that I’m on this listing. In the event that they need to see the satan, allow them to see him.”

The Biden White Home known as him “a recognized dangerous actor” previous to his loss of life and State Division spokesperson Ned Worth mentioned Prigozhin’s “daring confession, if something, seems to be only a manifestation of the impunity that crooks and cronies take pleasure in below President Putin and the Kremlin”.

Avoiding challenges to Putin

As Prigozhin grew extra outspoken in opposition to the way in which Russia’s typical army had carried out the preventing in Ukraine, he continued to play a seemingly indispensable function for the Russian offensive and appeared to undergo no retaliation from Mr Putin for his criticism of Moscow’s generals.

Media studies at occasions recommended Prigozhin’s affect over the president was rising and that he hoped to be rewarded with a distinguished political publish, though some analysts felt this evaluation of his ambitions was overstated.

“He’s not considered one of Putin’s shut figures or a confidant,” mentioned Mark Galeotti of College Faculty, London, who specialises in Russian safety affairs, talking on his podcast, In Moscow’s Shadows.

“Prigozhin does what the Kremlin needs and does very nicely for himself in the method. However that’s the factor – he is a part of the employees reasonably than a part of the household,” he mentioned.

A deadly finish

Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash simply two months after his abortive mutiny on Russia’s high army chiefs, which culminated in a march on Moscow.

His non-public jet got here down north-west of Moscow on 23 August, killing all these on board. His loss of life was confirmed on Sunday, 4 days after the crash.

His right-hand man Dmitry Utkin was additionally on board the Embraer Legacy 600 jet, in addition to 5 different passengers and three crew members, based on the passenger listing.

The Kremlin has denied hypothesis it was guilty for the crash.

Throughout a convention name with journalists on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov instructed the BBC there was “numerous hypothesis” across the “tragic” deaths.

“Within the West, after all, this hypothesis comes from a sure angle. It’s all a whole lie,” Mr Peskov went on.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button