Who is Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin?

The pinnacle of the personal navy contractor Wagner known as Friday for an armed riot aimed toward ousting Russia’s protection minister. Russian safety companies reacted instantly by opening a felony investigation into Yevgeny Prigozhin.

He has beforehand bashed the nation’s navy management for failures within the struggle in Ukraine, and is thought for his long-running feud with the Protection Ministry.

A have a look at the 62-year-old Prigozhin and Wagner’s position within the struggle:

WHAT DID PRIGOZHIN SAY?

Prigozhin posted a sequence of offended video and audio recordings through which he accused Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu of ordering a rocket strike Friday on Wagner’s subject camps in Ukraine, the place his troops are preventing on behalf of Russia.

Prigozhin stated his troops would now punish Shoigu in an armed riot and urged the military to not provide resistance.

“This isn’t a navy coup, however a march of justice,” Prigozhin declared.

The Protection Ministry denied finishing up the rocket assault.

The Nationwide Anti-Terrorism Committee, which is a part of the Federal Safety Providers, or FSB, stated he could be investigated on prices of calling for an armed riot.

The FSB urged Wagner’s contract troopers to arrest Prigozhin and refuse to observe his “felony and treacherous orders.” It known as his statements a “stab within the again to Russian troops” and stated they amounted to fomenting an armed battle in Russia.

Riot police and the Nationwide Guard have been scrambled to tighten safety at key amenities in Moscow, together with authorities companies and transport infrastructure, Tass reported.

WHAT’S PRIGOZHIN’S BACKGROUND?

Prigozhin was convicted of theft and assault in 1981, and sentenced to 12 years in jail. Following his launch, he opened a restaurant enterprise in St. Petersburg within the Nineteen Nineties. It was on this capability that he received to know now-President Vladimir Putin, then town’s deputy mayor.

Prigozhin used that connection to develop a catering enterprise and received profitable Russian authorities contracts that earned him the nickname “Putin’s chef.” He later expanded into different areas, together with media and an notorious web “troll manufacturing facility” that led to his indictment within the U.S. for meddling within the 2016 presidential election.

In January, Prigozhin acknowledged founding, main and financing the shadowy Wagner firm.

WHERE HAS WAGNER OPERATED?

Wagner was first seen in motion in jap Ukraine quickly after a separatist battle erupted there in April 2014, within the weeks following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Whereas backing the separatist insurgency within the Donbas, Ukraine’s jap industrial heartland, Russia denied sending its personal weapons and troops there regardless of ample proof on the contrary. Partaking personal contractors within the preventing allowed Moscow to take care of a level of deniability.

Prigozhin’s firm was known as Wagner after the nickname of its first commander, Dmitry Utkin, a retired lieutenant colonel of the Russian navy’s particular forces. It quickly established a status for brutality and ruthlessness.

Wagner personnel additionally deployed to Syria, the place Russia supported President Bashar Assad’s authorities in a civil struggle. In Libya, they fought alongside forces of commander Khalifa Hifter. The group has additionally operated within the Central African Republic and Mali.

Prigozhin has reportedly used Wagner’s deployment to Syria and African international locations to safe profitable mining contracts. U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland stated in January the corporate was utilizing its entry to gold and different assets in Africa to fund operations in Ukraine.

Some Russian media alleged that Wagner was concerned within the 2018 killings of three Russian journalists in Central African Republic who have been investigating the group’s actions. The slayings stay unsolved.

WHAT IS WAGNER’S REPUTATION?

Western international locations and U.N. consultants have accused Wagner mercenaries of human rights abuses all through Africa, together with in Central African Republic, Libya and Mali.

In 2021, the European Union accused the group of “critical human rights abuses, together with torture and extrajudicial, abstract or arbitrary executions and killings,” and of finishing up “destabilizing actions” in Central African Republic, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

Video has surfaced purporting to point out a number of the actions which have contributed to Wagner’s fearsome status.

A 2017 on-line video confirmed a bunch of armed individuals, reportedly Wagner contractors, torturing a Syrian and beating him to dying with a sledgehammer earlier than mutilating and burning his physique. Russian authorities ignored requests by the media and rights activists to research.

In 2022, one other video confirmed a former Wagner contractor overwhelmed to dying with a sledgehammer after he allegedly fled to the Ukrainian facet and was repatriated. Regardless of public outrage and calls for for an investigation, the Kremlin turned a blind eye.

WHAT’S WAGNER’S ROLE IN UKRAINE?

Wagner took an more and more seen position within the struggle as common Russian troops suffered heavy attrition and misplaced territory in humiliating setbacks.

Prigozhin toured Russian prisons to recruit fighters, promising pardons in the event that they survived a half-year tour of front-line obligation with Wagner.

Within the interview in Might, he stated he had recruited 50,000 convicts, about 10,000 of whom the place killed in Bakhmut; the same variety of his personal fighters have died there.

He stated he had 50,000 males at his disposal “in the perfect instances,” with about 35,000 on the entrance traces always. He didn’t say whether or not these numbers included convicts.

The U.S. has estimated Wagner had about 50,000 personnel preventing in Ukraine, together with 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts. A U.S. official says almost half of the 20,000 Russian troopers killed in Ukraine since December have been Wagner’s troops in Bakhmut.

The U.S. assesses that Wagner is spending about $100 million a month within the struggle. In December, Washington accused North Korea of supplying weapons, together with rockets and missiles, to the Russian firm in violation of U.N. Safety Council resolutions. Each Wagner and North Korea denied the studies.

HOW HAS PRIGOZHIN CRITICIZED RUSSIA’S MILITARY?

If the U.S. accusation is true, Wagner’s attain for North Korean weapons could replicate its long-running dispute with the Russian navy management, which dates to the corporate’s creation.

Prigozhin claimed full credit score in January for capturing the Donetsk area salt-mining city of Soledar in Ukraine and accused the Russian Protection Ministry of making an attempt to steal Wagner’s glory. He has repeatedly complained the Russian navy failed to provide Wagner with ample ammunition to seize Bakhmut and threatened to drag out his males.

Troops presupposed to be Wagner contractors in Ukraine recorded a video through which they showered the chief of the Russian navy’s Normal Employees, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, with curses and accusations of failing to supply ammunition.

Prigozhin additionally has singled out Shoigu for withering criticism whereas accusing Russian navy leaders of incompetence. His frequent complaints are unprecedented for Russia’s tightly managed political system, through which solely Putin may air such criticism.

John Kirby, spokesman for the White Home Nationwide Safety Council, stated final month that Prigozhin’s remarks important of the struggle “could possibly be a form of morbid approach of him … claiming credit score for no matter they’ve been capable of obtain in Bakhmut, but in addition making an attempt to publicly embarrass the Ministry of Protection additional that the fee was borne in blood and treasure by Wagner, and never by the Russian navy.”

As soon as a shadowy determine, Prigozhin has more and more raised his public profile, boasting virtually every day about Wagner’s purported victories, sardonically mocking his enemies and complaining in regards to the navy brass.

Requested lately a few media comparability of him with Grigory Rasputin, a mystic who gained deadly affect over Russia’s final czar by claiming to have the ability to remedy his son’s hemophilia, Prigozhin snapped, “I don’t cease blood, however I spill blood of the enemies of our Motherland.”

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