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Yevgeny Prigozhin: The previous sizzling canine vendor and thug who grew to become Wagner boss at centre of ‘mutiny’ | World Information

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From flea market sizzling canine vendor to the pinnacle of a mercenary group behind a “mutiny” towards the Russian army, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rise has been removed from peculiar.

A former convict who spent a lot of his younger life behind bars, he rose as much as develop into near Vladimir Putin.

He even earned himself the nickname “Putin’s chef” on account of his Kremlin-linked catering enterprise.

Wagner troops seize city 300 miles from Moscow – Ukraine war latest

However the 62-year-old boss of the mercenary Wagner Group now stands accused of open riot towards Russia by his shut buddy.

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It’s a state of affairs which, within the eyes of some specialists, has been a very long time coming.

Prigozhin has been extremely vital of Russia’s army management over its invasion – specifically defence minister Sergei Shoigu – who he has bombarded with incendiary remarks.

He has additionally beforehand warned of a 1917-style riot, contrasting the snug lives of the nation’s “elites” with these of his troops – a lot of whom are recruited from prisons to combat in among the bloodiest battles in Ukraine.

However who’s Prigozhin and the way did we get thus far?

Crime and hotdogs

Born in 1961 within the metropolis of Leningrad – now Saint Petersburg, Prigozhin had a tough begin in life, dropping his father at a younger age.

He turned to crime in his teenage years, initially theft, however rapidly escalating into extra severe crimes. He was jailed for 12 years, aged 20, in 1981 after being convicted of theft and fraud.

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Putin accuses Prigozhin of treason

“Prigozhin is a former conman – he was a thug,” in accordance with Samantha de Bendern from the Royal Institute of Worldwide Affairs.

“He was put in jail within the Nineteen Eighties for principally assaulting a lady on the street. He spent fairly a lot of years within the Soviet Union’s penitentiary system,” she advised Sky Information.

Prigozhin was pardoned in 1988 and launched in 1990, when he started promoting sizzling canine at a flea market in Leningrad along with his mom and stepfather.

He left jail throughout perestroika and glasnost – the interval within the Nineteen Nineties when Russia was opening as much as the world after years of isolation underneath communism.

‘Putin’s butcher’ and becoming a member of the elite

Prigozhin later based, or develop into concerned in, many new companies and within the 2000s, he grew nearer to Putin.

“He in a short time bought onto the non-public property/non-public enterprise bandwagon and ended up being a sizzling canine vendor,” Ms de Bendern advised Sky Information.

“And that is the place issues develop into very mysterious as a result of he reworked himself from sizzling canine vendor to restaurateur to the grand and nice of the brand new post-Soviet Russian elite.”

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Putin and Prigozhin’s relationship defined

In accordance with a New York Occasions article in 2018, Prigozhin mentioned the “rubles had been piling up sooner than his mom might depend them”.

His firms received profitable authorities contracts, together with offering faculty lunches, and in Moscow alone his firm Harmony received hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in offers.

Prigozhin ultimately grew to become the caterer to a lot of Russian state issues together with the military – a deal which jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny claimed broke competitors bidding guidelines.

He was additionally catered for lots of state visits and met presidents and heads of state – together with then-French president Jacques Chirac, who dined with Putin at one in every of his eating places.

Yevgeny Prigozhin records a video addresses in Rostov-on-Don. Pic: AP
Picture:
Prigozhin in Rostov-on-Don in Russia in the course of the ‘mutiny’. Pic: AP

His catering background and his work for the Kremlin earned Prigozhin the nickname “Putin’s chef” – or generally “Putin’s butcher”.

Prigozhin addressed the nickname earlier this yr and denied he was ever a chef, saying “butcher” was extra correct.

“They may have simply given me a nickname immediately – Putin’s butcher, and every little thing would have been fantastic,” he mentioned.

Popping out as Wagner chief

A as soon as shadowy non-public army contractor (PMC), little was recognized in regards to the Wagner Group’s formation and Prigozhin’s function was stored a intently guarded secret.

Consultants imagine it was possible set as much as enable believable deniability about Russia’s army involvement in Ukraine and Syria.

It’s privately owned however its administration and operations are “deeply intertwined” with the Russian army and intelligence neighborhood, in accordance with the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research (CSIS), an American assume tank.

Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin at a factory outside St Petersburg in September 2010. Pic: AP
Picture:
Putin and Prigozhin in September 2010. Pic: AP

The Russian authorities has beforehand denied involvement with the group and has insisted non-public army contractors aren’t authorized in Russia.

Nevertheless, Putin lately praised Wagner’s seize of Bakhmut in what’s believed to be his first acknowledgment of the group.

The group got here to the world’s consideration in 2014 in the course of the Donbas battle, the place it supported pro-Russian separatists in a coup, and for sneak assaults, reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering in the course of the annexation of Crimea.

Learn extra:
Prigozhin a disaster waiting to happen for Putin – analysis
Prigozhin’s growing influence a threat to Putin – analysis

Putin accuses mercenary boss of treason

Wagner can be believed to have operated in international locations in Africa – together with Mali, Mozambique and Sudan – the place it has been accused of human rights abuses by the EU.

Prigozhin beforehand denied any hyperlinks to Wagner and even launched authorized motion towards Western journalists who tried to attract such a connection.

Nevertheless, after Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Prigozhin went public and claimed he had based the mercenary power in 2014.

Recruiting hundreds of prisoners

Prigozhin’s affect has grown because the invasion and his forces have stepped out of the shadows for use overtly in fight.

In late March 2022, UK defence intelligence and US officers mentioned Wagner Group had about 1,000 personnel in Donbas and japanese Ukraine.

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Then, in August, posters calling for recruits to affix Wagner began appearing in Russian cities; whereas a month later, a video appeared which confirmed Prigozhin trying to recruit prisoners.

By December, Wagner forces had swelled to 50,000, in accordance with John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications on the White Home’s Nationwide Safety Council.

Round 40,000 had been believed to be convicts and the remainder contractors, he added.

“Wagner virtually definitely now instructions 50,000 fighters in Ukraine,” the UK’s Ministry of Defence mentioned in January this yr.

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How Prigozhin’s riot might affect Putin

Regardless of big casualty charges, it has proved efficient at delivering battlefield success – one thing the Russian military has struggled with.

Prigozhin’s forces had been closely concerned within the seize of Bakhmut, one of many battle’s bloodiest battles.

In accordance with US figures, round 20,000 Russian troops had been killed within the combating, with round half considered from the Wagner Group.

‘Eat their guts in hell’ – Clashes with the Kremlin

Whereas Wagner forces have made advances, the battle has additionally given Prigozhin an opportunity to additional his personal political ambitions.

He has, on a number of events, made public his displeasure with the Russian army management, typically in strongly-worded movies on social media.

Earlier this yr, he accused the defence ministry of failing to offer sufficient ammunition to Wagner forces in Bakhmut and never offering cowl for his or her flanks.

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Wagner chief claims Bakhmut victory

He even threatened to tug troops out in the event that they weren’t resupplied.

“These are somebody’s fathers and somebody’s sons,” Prigozhin mentioned on the time, as he shared a video of himself standing by the our bodies of {dead} troops.

“The scum that does not give us ammunition will eat their guts in hell.”

Earlier this month, Prigozhin arrived in Moscow with a contract which, in impact, tried to formalise Wagner as an equal however separate army power to the Russian military.

Hours earlier than his riot, he took goal at defence minister Shoigu – typically the principle goal of his vitriol – in addition to chief of the final employees Valery Gerasimov.

He additionally claimed Kremlin officers and oligarchs needed the invasion of Ukraine to generate profits and advance their very own careers.

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Wagner chief: ‘We’re blocking Rostov and going to Moscow’

Prigozhin has typically taken swipes on the Russian “elite”, who he claims have prevented the affect of the battle whereas reaping the advantages.

In Could, he warned the nation would face turmoil if peculiar Russians continued getting their youngsters again in coffins whereas these of the elite “shook their a***s” within the solar.

He additionally launched a video by which he paid respect to international fighters who had fallen whereas combating for Ukraine in Bakhmut by draping their coffins with their nation’s flag – which some specialists mentioned was a ploy to spice up his place amongst world leaders.

Nevertheless, whereas vital of Kremlin officers, one factor Prigozhin has been cautious to keep away from is criticism of Putin himself.

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Russian mercenary fingers over US and Turkish our bodies

“He’s a product of the Kremlin,” mentioned Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Centre.

“He might be towards a part of the elite however on the identical time, if he had been towards Putin, he would disappear in a single day.”

Mark Galeotti of College School London, who specialises in Russian safety affairs, mentioned throughout his podcast In Moscow’s Shadows: “[Prigozhin] is just not one in every of Putin’s shut figures or a confidant.

“Prigozhin does what the Kremlin needs, and does very properly for himself within the course of. However that is the factor – he’s a part of the employees, quite than a part of the household.”



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