Yevgeny Prigozhin was born on June 1, 1961 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). By the age of 20, he had already spent nine years in a penal colony. In 1981, he was sentenced to 12 years in jail under articles of the criminal code for robbery, fraud and organizing prostitution.
However, in 1990, Prigozhin organized a chain selling hot dogs in Leningrad, from where Vladimir Putin hails. And from 1995 he opened several shops and restaurants in St. Petersburg. The New Island restaurant, which he opened in 1998, brought Yevgeny popularity and financial success. This undertaking brought him considerable popularity among Russian political elites. Putin would often spend time there, and that is why Prigozhin got to be called “Putin’s cook”.
Prigozhin also founded a troll factory. The use of trolls to spread Russian propaganda on social networks has been one of the components of Russia’s large-scale information war against Ukraine.
In addition, in 2013 the existence of some “Internet Research Agency”, which was financed by Prigozhin’s business entities, became known.
The agency’s employees wrote pro-Putin articles and comments online, and actively discredited the Russian political opposition. Back in 2014 “Prigozhin’s troll factory” was accused of direct informational interference in the presidential election process in the U.S.
Subsequently, in February 2018, the District Court of the District of Columbia in the U.S. issued a warrant for Prigozhin’s arrest. And in the summer of 2020, the FBI put Prigozhin on its wanted list. And in February 2021, the FBI offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
In addition, according to Rosbiznesconsulting, Prigozhin may be behind the creation and financing of one of the largest media holdings in Russia, whose biggest project is the Media Factory. He has also been involved in construction projects since the 2000s, and owns the Concord construction company.
Due to Prigozhin’s role in undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the EU introduced personal sanctions against him on April 21, 2022.
The father of the shadow army of the Russian Federation — PMC “Wagner”
Prigozhin is, in fact, associated with Dmitry Utkin, the commander of the Wagner private military company (PMC). The head of the security service of one of Prigozhin’s companies was found to be a member of Utkin’s entourage.
PMC Wagner is an unofficial military organization that is not part of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, and has no legal status on the territory of the Russian Federation. The company is actually a shadow Russian army for hybrid warfare.
“A mercenary is the cheapest type of soldier. If he is killed or maimed, the state bears no financial, moral, or legal responsibility for him. This is the cheapest consumable that can be,” Mykhaylo Makaruk, spokesman for the international intelligence community Informnapalm, said in an interview with Hroshi on 1+1 on May 18, 2022.
Wagner PMC actively participates in all military conflicts on the side of Russia’s interests: Syria, Sudan, Libya, Ukraine, etc. It gained notoriety for its participation in the war in Donbas and Syria. The company is also involved in mineral and stream raiding. Moreover, the sale of African diamonds is also financing Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The Security Service of Ukraine has identified more than 2,000 names of members of Wagner who participated in the war in Eastern Ukraine from 2014. The information also emphasizes that it was these mercenaries who shot down the Ukrainian Air Force Il-76 plane shot down in Luhansk in 2014, and these mercenaries directly participated in the battles for Debaltseve, etc.
Who are the members of Wagner and what tasks do they perform?
The hallmark of Russian military personnel is numerous crimes against humanity. For example, slogans like “Our business is death and business is going well” can be seen on their chevrons. In support of this image, members of Wagner behave extremely cruelly to the population, using psychological and physical violence, carrying out show executions and torture. Thus, the main goal of Wagner’s members is to terrorize the civilian population. Thanks to Wagner, Russia absolves itself of all war crimes.
Currently, all those who are willing are being recruited all over the world, including prisoners, to fight in the war against Ukraine.
“If you are not traveling – no problem, if you don’t have a passport – no problem, if you have health problems – no problem, restrictions only in case of cancer, AIDS, HIV and, if I’m not mistaken, in case of hepatitis C. Tens, maybe hundreds, respond to such announcements. Especially since such a candidate may not have any combat experience at all,” emphasized Russian journalist Ilya Rozhdestvenskiy in an interview with Hroshi on 1+1 on May 18.
Mercenaries are motivated to work for 200,000 rubles per month, which is about $3,200, as well as additional bonuses. They are also given all the necessary weapons and equipment, including aviation. On June 21, Ukrainian TV channel Espreso published an interrogation of a mercenary pilot from PMC Wagner. In it, he admitted that he and other mercenaries fly on Russian fighter jets worth more than $10 million, and not staff pilots of Russia’s armed forces.
However, the merits of mercenaries on the battlefield in Ukraine are not many, because they usually appear, so to speak, at the finishing line. At the very last moment, to film the “success” for the report and demonstrate its strength, which will justify the declared potential of the “Wagner brand”. However, they have become victims of their own PR campaign. The base in Popasna, Luhansk Region, near which the mercenaries were photographed and which was published on social networks, was destroyed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
How Prigozhin tries to prove his own importance to Putin?
Prigozhin is actively demonstrating to Putin at the present time that he can be relied on and that his persona is an important figure. He personally travels to war zones and recruits new mercenaries.
And on June 25, Putin awarded Prigozhin the title of Hero of Russia by secret order. However, the Kremlin neither confirmed nor denied this information.
Already on August 14, 2022, after the shelling of the PMC base in Popasna, there were unconfirmed reports that Prigozhin had been wounded.
Prigozhin needs to regain Putin’s trust due to the fact that on February 7, 2018, Russian mercenaries who tried to capture an oil field near the village of Hisham in Syria were hit by an airstrike by an international coalition under the command of the U. S. As a result, the attackers were defeated and, according to various reports, from several dozen to several hundred people died, including Russian citizens who fought for Wagner PMC. The Washington Post reports on February 22, 2018.
The Kremlin did not like this, so Prigozhin took a back seat. After all, it was Prigozhin who took part in the planning of the attack by Russian mercenaries fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime against the Syrian Democratic Forces – allies of the international coalition led by the U.S. on that day, Radio Svoboda reported on February 23, 2018.
Also, the owner of the private military company Wagner was seen personally recruiting prisoners for the war in one of the Russian colonies. Journalist Simon Ostrovsky posted a video on his Twitter, which also appeared in groups of mercenaries, where a man who looks like Prigozhin performs in front of prisoners in a Russian penal colony. However, when and where the video was recorded is unknown.
Prigozhin asked future militants to immediately write wills that will indicate their wishes regarding their burial site. And he promised that all the invaders will end up on the alley of heroes or will be shot if they change their mind about fighting.
The billionaire said that the minimum year for joining Wagner is 22 years. If there are those who want to be among the younger prisoners, they are also ready to take them to the militants and only with the written consent of their relatives. The maximum age for wagnerists is 50 years and their good physical fitness is extremely important. In particular, he said that he needed “only stormtroopers.”
In addition, Prigozhin also spoke about the so-called sins for wagnerists, including desertion, alcohol, drugs, looting and sexual contacts with the Ukrainians.
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