Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group was on board a plane that crashed last Wednesday (8/23/23), killing everyone onboard. Prigozhin was a close ally of Vladimir Putin, providing military personnel in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Putin and Prigozhin first met in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although their first encounter is not documented, Putin had just returned from a mission in East Germany while Prigozhin was fresh out of jail.

Prigozhin started off selling hot dogs in St. Petersburg and eventually opened a restaurant. The restaurant was successful and eventually became a chain with clientele including politicians. Putin used to frequent the restaurant, forging their relationship over the years. After Putin rose to power, he kept his close associate, Prigozhin, as a personal chef to ensure his food was safe. Prigozhin also performed other Kremlin tasks.

After some years, Prigozhin founded a media empire to spread propaganda to support Putin. Vladimir Putin kept Prigozhin at arm’s length to deny any involvement. The first reports of Wagner’s private military surfaced after Russia annexed Crimea and the Ukrainian Revolution in 2013-14. Prigozhin and his mercenaries were crucial in stamping Vladimir Putin’s authority. It is important to note that Russia bans mercenary organizations. However, since Prigozhin was an ally of Putin and the mercenaries were pro-Putin, the government turned a blind eye. The Kremlin maintained that it did not have any connection with the mercenary group until late 2022.

In June, President Putin admitted that Wagner had received state funding for many years. He went on to state that the group did not exist because, officially, private military companies are illegal in the country. Prigozhin started criticizing the Defence Minister and Chief of General Staff for starving Wagner’s ammunition and failing to recognize their sacrifices in Ukraine. At one point, he aimed a dig at the president, referring to him as a granddad. Although he did not name Putin, everyone knew who he was referring to.

As the situation worsened, Prigozhin questioned the war’s objectives and announced a ‘march of justice’ on June 23rd and 24th. His mercenaries shot down a plane and two military helicopters, killing 15 Russian soldiers. Prigozhin’s mutiny was a desperate attempt to get Putin’s attention. Eventually, Putin met Prigozhin and more than 30 Wagner mercenaries for three hours at the Kremlin to discuss the Ukraine war, among other issues.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement with the crash, and they’ve launched a criminal investigation. Putin said the investigation will be thorough to determine the cause of the crash.

Image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license and was created by УлПравда ТВ.