Russia-Ukraine war: Prigozhin From Putin’s chef to rebel in chief
Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a brief rebellion within Russia, ordering his private army of mercenaries to seize key military facilities, after weeks of increasingly critical outbursts against the Russian military leadership.
It infuriated President Vladimir Putin. A swift punishment was promised for what he called “treason.”
Prior to a confrontation turning violent, Prigozhin agreed to leave Russia altogether and halted his troops.
Prigozhin emerged as a key player in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 as the leader of the Wagner Group. During the war, Wagner fighters led the Russian onslaught in Bakhmut, one of the most important cities.
With the fighting continuing, he grew increasingly critical of Russia’s senior military officials for what he saw as a failed attempt to achieve “special military operations” in Ukraine.
Despite having enjoyed a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he did not blame him.
Vladimir Putin’s hometown is St Petersburg, where Yevgeny Prigozhin hails from.
A suspended two-and-a-half year sentence for theft was his first criminal conviction in 1979, when he was just 18 years old. A year later, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for robbery and theft, nine of which he served behind bars.
As soon as Prigozhin was released from prison, he opened a chain of stalls selling hot dogs in St Petersburg. As a result of his successful business, Prigozhin was able to open expensive restaurants in the city in the lawless 1990s.
During his time in St Petersburg, he became acquainted with the high and mighty of Russia. In one of his restaurants, called New Island, he operated a boat that sailed up and down the Neva River. In fact, Vladimir Putin liked it so much that he started taking his foreign guests there after becoming president. This is most likely how the two first met.
In an interview, Prigozhin said that Putin knew he could serve plates to dignitaries in person. During the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Mori, we met.”
At the very beginning of Vladimir Putin’s rule, Yoshiro Mori visited St Petersburg in April 2000.
In later years, his catering company Concord was contracted to supply food to the Kremlin, earning him the nickname “Putin’s chef”. Additionally, Prigozhin’s companies won lucrative catering contracts with the military and state-run schools.