Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a plane crash near Moscow (file)

Moscow:

Mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose death was confirmed by the Russian investigative committee on Sunday after a plane crash near Moscow, was a Kremlin confidante who was discredited by the offensive in Ukraine before directing his troops towards the Russian capital .

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s order in June for his private combat group to march on Moscow to overthrow Russia’s top politicians posed the greatest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s more than two-decade hiatus.

His forces seized a key military headquarters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don before heading for Moscow, where authorities tightened security in anticipation of a showdown.

“The evil that the country’s military leadership is bringing must be stopped,” the Wagner chief proclaimed after claiming the Defense Department had launched attacks on Wagner bases.

But the failed attempt ended with President Putin eventually offering the mutineers exile in neighboring Belarus, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was subsequently seen in footage vowing to make Africa “freer” and implying he was on the move Continent.

Before President Putin, who accused Yevgeny Prigozhin of treason, ordered troops into Ukraine last February, the 62-year-old mercenary leader sent fighters from his private force to conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, but always denied involvement.

That changed last year when he proclaimed himself the founder of the Wagner Group and launched a mass recruitment campaign for foot soldiers in Russian prisons to fight an amnesty.

Bitter rivalry between the front runners

He gained public recognition when Wagner led the capture of several important Ukrainian cities, including Bakhmut. But Yevgeny Prigozhin began to denounce systemic mismanagement and lies at the Russian Defense Ministry.

Yevgeny Prigozhin has been locked in a bitter month-long power struggle with the Defense Ministry as his ragtag forces spearheaded costly battles for limited gains in eastern Ukraine.

He had previously accused the Russian military of wanting to “steal” Wagner’s victories and criticized Moscow’s “monstrous bureaucracy” for impeding progress on the ground.

And he directly blamed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other senior officials for the deaths of his fighters, claiming Moscow did not provide enough ammunition.

Unlike the Russian generals, who were criticized for evading combat, the stocky and bald Prigozhin regularly posed for photographs alongside mercenaries rumored to be at the front lines.

He posted pictures from the cockpit of a SU-24 fighter jet on social media and challenged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to an aerial duel.

The former hot dog vendor from Putin’s hometown of Saint Petersburg, who was imprisoned for almost a decade during the Soviet era, claimed for years that he was linked to Wagner.

But last September he admitted that he founded the combat force and opened its headquarters in St. Petersburg.

Video has surfaced of a man closely resembling Yevgeny Prigozhin in a prison yard offering inmates contracts to fight in Ukraine under appalling conditions.

shooting of deserters

“If you arrive in Ukraine and decide it’s not for you, we will consider it desertion and shoot you,” the man said.

When video footage circulated showing a suspected Wagner deserter being executed with a sledgehammer, Yevgeny Prigozhin praised the killing and called the man featured in the video a “dog.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin grew up in the former Russian imperial capital from a humble background and became part of Putin’s inner circle.

In the final stages of the USSR, he spent nine years in prison after being convicted of fraud and theft and founded a moderately successful fast food company in the chaos of the 1990s.

He got into the hospitality industry and opened a luxury eatery in St. Petersburg, where President Putin was a client, before moving from the KGB to local politics.

The company he founded once worked for the Kremlin and earned Yevgeny Prigozhin the nickname “Putin’s cook”.

Yevgeny Prigozhin is described as a billionaire with a vast fortune based on state contracts, the extent of which is unknown.

One of the most famous images shows him in the Kremlin in 2011, bending over a seated Putin and offering him a dish while the Russian leader looks back with an appreciative look.

The “Troll Factory”

He was sanctioned by Washington, which accused him of playing a role in meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, particularly through his internet “troll factory.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin denied any involvement at the time and in 2020 demanded $50 billion in compensation from the United States.

In July 2018, three journalists researching Wagner’s activities in Central African Republic for an investigative media outlet were killed in an ambush.

Western countries have accused the private combat group of coming to the aid of the military junta in Mali, contributing to France’s decision to end a nearly decade-long military operation there.

(Except for the headline, this article was not edited by NDTV staff and is published via a syndicated feed.)

Source : www.ndtv.com

Leave a Reply

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