Who is ‘Vladimir Putin’s chef' Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin
Yevgeny Prigozhin: Here's everything you need to know about the head of Russia's Wagner Group
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia's Wagner Group mercenary force, was said to be on the passenger list of a plane that crashed north of Moscow, Russia's civil aviation authority said. Once a low-profile businessman who benefited because of his connections to Russian president Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin moved into the global spotlight with Russia’s war in Ukraine as he headed the mercenary force Wagner. Here's everything you need to know about Yevgeny Prigozhin:
- The 62-year-old owner of the Kremlin-allied Wagner Group escalated months of scathing criticism of Russia’s conduct of the war by calling for an armed uprising to oust the defense minister of the country.
- Russian security services reacted immediately, opening a criminal investigation and urging Prigozhin’s arrest.
- Then Prigozhin urged Russians to join his “march to justice" but riot police and the national guard tightened security at key facilities in Moscow, including government agencies and transport infrastructure to stop the mercenary chief.
- Prigozhin and Putin go way back. Both were born in Leningrad which is now known as St. Petersburg. During the final years of the Soviet Union, Prigozhin served time in prison.
- After that, he owned a hot dog stand and then fancy restaurants that drew interest from Vladimir Putin.
- In his first term, the Russian leader took then-French President Jacques Chirac to dine at one of them. “Vladimir Putin saw how I built a business out of a kiosk, he saw that I don’t mind serving to the esteemed guests because they were my guests,” Prigozhin said in an interview in 2011.
- His businesses expanded significantly to catering and providing school lunches.
- In 2010, Putin helped Prigozhin in opening a factory that was built on generous loans by a state bank. He also organized catering for Kremlin events for several years which earned him the nickname “Putin’s chef".
- Prigozhin's Wagner Group has come to play a central role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.