Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin (born 1 June 1961) is the Russian businessman and entrepreneur who is often referred to as “Putin’s chef” due to his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is known for his involvement in various business ventures, including catering, restaurants, and security services. Prigozhin has gained significant attention both in Russia and internationally for his connections to the Russian government and his alleged involvement in various controversial activities.
He was also a close confidant of Russian president Vladimir Putin until he launched an alleged coup in June 2023.
Prigozhin controls companies such as the Wagner Group, a Russian state-backed mercenary group operating in most notably Ukraine and Syria. He also controls three companies that were accused of interference in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections. Prigozhin denied any connection to Wagner, however, in September 2022, a video surfaced showing Prigozhin in a Mari El prison promising inmates freedom if they served six months with the Wagner Group.
Here are some key points about Yevgeny Prigozhin:
Business Ventures: Prigozhin initially made his fortune through the catering industry and later expanded his business interests into other areas, such as restaurants, food services, and military contracting.
Concord Catering: Prigozhin is the owner of Concord Catering, a company that has provided catering services to the Russian government, including the military.
Internet Research Agency: Prigozhin has been linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm that has been accused of attempting to influence foreign elections through social media manipulation. The IRA was allegedly involved in attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Sanctions: Prigozhin and some of his associated companies have faced sanctions from Western governments, including the United States, in connection with alleged interference in foreign elections and other activities.
Wagner Group: Prigozhin has been associated with the Wagner Group, a private military company that has reportedly been involved in various conflicts, including the Syrian civil war and other operations with ties to Russian interests.
Legal Issues: Prigozhin has faced legal challenges and allegations of illegal activities in various contexts, both in Russia and abroad.
It’s important to note that information about Prigozhin is often controversial, and he has denied many of the allegations against him. Due to the ongoing nature of some of these matters, there may have been further developments beyond my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021.
Early life: Prigozhin was born in Leningrad on 1 June 1961, to Violetta Prigozhina, who raised him as a single mother.
Criminal charges: Prigozhin himself spent nine years as a convict in prisons in the Soviet Union.
Prigozhin and his companies face criminal charges in the United States, with the FBI (The Federal Bureau of Investigation) is offering a reward of up to $250,000 for information leading to the arrest of ”Prigozhin”.
Wagner Group rebellion:
On 23 June 2023, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said that soldiers of the Russian Ministry of Defense were attacking his soldiers. Prigozhin promised to take revenge on the Ministry of Defense. Prigozhin said the “evil” military leaders must be stopped and said he would “march for justice”.
Prigozhin also said that Russia’s reasons for invading Ukraine were lies and that Ukraine and NATO were not planning an attack on the Donbas and Crimea in 2022. He said Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Minister of Defence, was making Russia lose in the war. He also said the military attacked the Wagner Group. The Federal Security Service (FSB) opened a criminal case against him after these statements. Prigozhin took his 25,000 soldiers out of Ukraine and into Rostov-on-Don in Rostov Oblast, Russia. He said, “If anyone gets in our way, we will destroy everything!” Putin responded to PMC Wagner’s attack by saying its actions were “treason” and a “stab in the back”.