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Yevgeny Prigozhin: From controversial past to Wagner Group's rise

30 Jan,2024 04:29 PM, by: Super Admin
2 minute read Total views: 500
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Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin was born on June 1, 1961, in Leningrad, Soviet Union (now Saint Petersburg, Russia). His mother, Violetta Kirovna Prigozhina, was a hospital nurse, and his father, Viktor Yevgenyevich Prigozhin, a mining engineer, passed away when Yevgeny was nine. His grandfather, Yevgeny Ilyich Prigozhin, served as a captain in the Red Army during World War II. Prigozhin's early life was marked by a criminal history, in 1980, Prigozhin joined a gang in Leningrad, engaging in a burglary spree. He was later caught after choking a woman during a street robbery, stealing her earrings and boots. In 1981, he received a twelve-year sentence for robbery, theft, fraud, and involving minors in criminal activities.


Upon release in 1990, Prigozhin failed to complete his pharmaceutical studies and later allegedly leveraged his prison past to recruit for the Wagner Group. In the 2000s, he grew closer to Vladimir Putin, leaving business partners to establish independent restaurants. Concord Catering, one of his companies, secured lucrative government contracts, including supplying meals to the Russian military.


He is often referred to as "Putin's Chef" due to his background in the catering industry and his catering contracts with the Russian government.


The Wagner Group is a private military company believed to have been founded by Prigozhin. It gained international attention for its involvement in conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War, the Ukrainian conflict, and other regions where Russian interests were at play. The group is known for providing mercenaries to advance Russian interests without the direct involvement of official Russian military forces.


Prigozhin's businesses expanded, and he accumulated significant wealth, living a lavish lifestyle with a private jet, a yacht, and a luxurious compound in Saint Petersburg. He faced accusations of corrupt practices and was declared the 2022 Corrupt Person of the Year by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.


Prigozhin repeatedly denied links to the Wagner Group, however, during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, he traveled to oversee Wagner's operations, confirming his involvement. The group played a significant role in conflicts across the globe, supporting pro-Russian forces in Ukraine and aligning with Russian overseas interests. His influence and power grew during the invasion, leading to tensions with the Russian Ministry of Defense. His public feud with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu escalated, with Prigozhin accusing the military of neglecting Wagner's needs. The conflict intensified as Wagner suffered heavy losses, and Prigozhin criticized the military's handling of the war.


In June 2023, Prigozhin declared an armed conflict against the Russian Ministry of Defence, alleging missile strikes on Wagner forces. Wagner forces, led by Prigozhin, entered Russia's Rostov Oblast without opposition, leading to criminal charges for inciting armed rebellion. Wagner captured Rostov-on-Don and advanced on Moscow. Putin condemned the rebellion as "treason," and pledged harsh measures. Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko brokered a peace deal between Prigozhin and the Kremlin.


On August 23, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a plane crash en route from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. The circumstances surrounding his death remain controversial, with conflicting reports about whether the plane was shot down or experienced an internal explosion. Prigozhin's death sparked makeshift memorials, and he was buried in a private ceremony in Saint Petersburg.


While Prigozhin's death marked the end of a controversial figure linked to geopolitical conflicts, questions linger about the circumstances of his demise. Speculations suggest political motivations behind the plane crash, implicating Putin's right-hand man, Nikolai Patrushev.


The life of Yevgeny Prigozhin, from a troubled past to a prominent role in the Wagner Group and a tragic end, reflects the complex intersections of business, politics, and military involvement in contemporary Russia.


Pavel Yevgenyevich Prigozhin, born on 18 June 1998, became the leader of the Wagner Group in early October 2023, succeeding his father a month and a half after Yevgeny Prigozhin's death in the plane crash.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.

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