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From Putin’s Chef To Kremlin Revolt Leader: The Rise Of Yevgeny Prigozhin

Former criminal turned oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner Group poses a major threat to Vladimir Putin's regime

Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin (born 1961), is the leader of the mercenary company Wagner Group, which has just revolted against the Kremlin and the Russian military leadership. His elite mercenary business has become known for its victories, violence and, of late, clashes with the Russian government with whom it previously had a close relationship. However, of the man behind this paramilitary enterprise, fewer elements have come to the public eye until now. Once known as “Putin’s chef”, the former criminal, later oligarch, has now bitten hard on the hand that fed him for years. Who exactly is the man who is now posing a major threat to Vladimir Putin?

Prigozhin allegedly secured state contracts worth at least 2.5 billion euros, including one to distribute food to the Russian army. After this first link between the Wagner leader and the military forces, again through the kitchen, a determining factor in his next steps was his huge ambition. He started out as a contractor for the Russian military through catering, but went far beyond.PHOTO BY MIKHAIL SVETLOV/GETTY IMAGES

he began his career in crime as a teenager and spent 9 years in prison for robbery and fraud in the 1980s. However, he emerged into a world that was changing quickly through the fall of the Soviet Union, and became the protagonist of a true capitalist dream. Once out of jail, he started a business empire from nothing, running a hot dog company with family members. Prigozhin aspired to more, and in a Russia where the staidness of the Soviet system was giving way to the savage capitalism of the oligarchs – that has reigned in the country ever since – anything was possible. He opened a successful grocery chain, then entered the gambling business and then opened an elite restaurant. 

Thus when the Wagner Group leader reached the Kremlin, he was far from being a mercenary boss. However, what has not changed between then and now in the spheres of Russian power is that Vladimir Putin was already president. Government catering and school contracts in Moscow were soon awarded to Prigozhin’s Concord Catering company. As well as other very juicy contracts. It is from this time that he received the nickname of “Putin’s chef”. 




Produced in association with El Nacional En

Edited by Asad Ali and Newsdesk Manager

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