Who is Wagner mercenary group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Here are some crucial details about Yevgeny Prigozhin, the individual behind Russia’s Wagner Group private military company. Russia’s civil aviation authority reported today that he was on the passenger roster of a plane that crashed to the north of Moscow on Wednesday.

– Aged 62, Prigozhin’s reputation increased following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. His forces, which notably encompassed numerous convicts he enlisted from prisons, spearheaded the Russian offensive in the city of Bakhmut, marking the war’s lengthiest and most intense conflict. Leveraging social media, Prigozhin championed Wagner’s achievements while engaging in a public dispute with the military establishment. He openly criticized its competence and even leveled accusations of treason.

– During June, Prigozhin orchestrated a rebellion that saw Wagner operatives seize command over the southern metropolis of Rostov-on-Don. In a consequential escalation, they successfully targeted multiple military helicopters, causing the death of the pilots onboard, while advancing in the direction of Moscow. President Vladimir Putin condemned this insurrection as an act of betrayal, vowing a stern retaliation in response.

– The uprising was resolved through an arrangement in which the Kremlin announced that, to prevent violence, Prigozhin and a portion of his combatants would depart for Belarus. Simultaneously, the criminal charges against him for leading an armed rebellion would be withdrawn.

– Uncertainty has enshrouded the execution of the agreement and the fate of Prigozhin. Despite the Kremlin’s assertion that he engaged in a meeting with Putin five days post the insurrection, the situation remains hazy. On July 5, state television reported ongoing investigations against him, showcasing cash, passports, weaponry, and other seized items from a raid on one of his properties. However, in late July, photographs emerged of Prigozhin in St. Petersburg, coinciding with a Russia-Africa summit being held in the city. Adding to the intrigue, this week he surfaced in a video purportedly filmed in Africa, where Wagner maintains operations across multiple countries.

– Born on June 1, 1961, in St. Petersburg, Prigozhin endured a nine-year period within Soviet penitentiaries due to offenses such as theft and deception. Following his release in 1990, coinciding with the final stages of the Soviet Union, he embarked on a career as a caterer and restaurateur within his native city. It’s widely speculated that during this phase, he crossed paths with Putin, who was then a prominent aide to the mayor of St. Petersburg.

– Utilizing his political affiliations, Prigozhin secured significant government contracts, earning the moniker “Putin’s chef” due to his provision of catering services for Kremlin functions. In a more recent turn of phrase, he weirdly suggested that “Putin’s butcher” might be a more fitting description.

– Back in 2014, Prigozhin founded Wagner, a private military establishment whose operatives have been dispatched to assist Moscow’s partners in nations such as Syria, Libya, and the Central African Republic. The United States has imposed sanctions on this entity, leveling allegations of misconduct, to which Prigozhin has steadfastly maintained his denial.

– Prigozhin openly admitted to establishing and funding the Internet Research Agency, a firm that Washington labels as a “troll farm” involved in influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In November 2022, he declared his involvement in meddling with U.S. elections and expressed readiness to engage in such actions once more.

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