Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin admits that he created the paramilitary company in 2014 to fight in the Ukrainian Donbas
It was an open secret, but the suspicions of Western counterintelligence services have finally been confirmed. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman close to the Kremlin better known as ‘Putin’s cook’, acknowledged on Monday that he founded the Wagner group in 2014, a battalion of Russian mercenaries that looks like something out of a war movie starring Sylvester Stallone. This paramilitary company, which the tycoon describes as a “pillar of our country”, does not hesitate to deploy to any country in the world, including Latin America, to defend the interests of his country.
Prigozhin, 61, known for his shaved head and piercing gaze, earned his nickname as one of the purveyors of the Kremlin kitchen. How did you get this important contract that boosted you in the business world to become a successful businessman? He had the great fortune to be the owner of Putin’s favorite restaurant in Saint Petersburg. But this former prisoner is interested in other things apart from gastronomy. Like computing.
Sanctioned by the EU and the US, a measure that involves the blocking of any asset in the international financial system, Yevgeny Prigozhin is accused of creating a digital infrastructure from which destabilization campaigns have been carried out in the West through the dissemination of news fake on the internet. His biggest success was the ‘troll factory’ involved in efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election in which Republican Donald Trump won.
Photograph of alleged Russian mercenaries distributed by Amaq, the Islamic State’s propaganda apparatus. /
But for some time now, various media outlets in his country have also put him at the head of Wagner’s kitchen, a shadow army at the direct service of Vladimir Putin. In fact, he was directly accused of financing it. Now, in a social media post from his catering company Concord, the Russian tycoon has finally admitted that he created this paramilitary group eight years ago to fight in Ukrainian Donbas and support pro-Russian separatists. “At that time, on May 1, 2014, a group of patriots was born that took the name of the Wagner Battalion Tactical Group,” says Putin’s ‘cook’ in a statement.
“I cleaned the old weapons myself, fixed the bulletproof vests and found specialists who could help me with this,” he explains. “These boys, these heroes, who defend the Syrian people, other peoples of Arab countries, the dispossessed Africans and Latin Americans, have become a pillar of our homeland,” adds this businessman proudly who, in December 2016, was received in the Kremlin at a ceremony honoring the “heroes” of Syria posing with Putin in several photos. Many specialists in Russian politics believe that what Prigozhin really wants with his shadow job is a permanent position in the Putin government.
A group made up of ex-convicts
The confession of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who did not previously reveal his relationship with Wagner to protect his soldiers, comes days after the release of a video in which the businessman is seen recruiting potential candidates in a Russian prison to send them to fight the Ukraine for six months with the promise of being released. In fact, the bulk of Wagner, which takes its name from the nickname used by one of its founders, is made up of ex-convicts, although it also includes experienced instructors and talented war advisers, most of them extreme right-wing ultranationalists.
Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic or Mali are some of the countries in which this group has operated, which is accused of doing dirty work for the Kremlin by carrying out security tasks and selective attacks. In fact, Wagner’s operations have been plagued by scandals, diplomatic tensions and accusations of crimes of everything from rape to murder of civilians. This group can torture for hours and even decapitate their victims. In 2018, three Russian journalists were shot dead in unclear circumstances while investigating Wagner’s activities.
A group of soldiers carries one of the victims of the bombing, which reduced the Wagner base in the Ukrainian region of Lugansk to rubble.
The Ukrainian army achieved a great propaganda success by destroying with US missiles in the town of Popasna, in Luhansk, the secret base of the mercenaries, who have stood out in decisive battles of the invasion such as the capture of Azov or Mariupol. Quite a success considering that the Kremlin had previously denied the participation in Ukraine of this ‘unofficial’ army, which remains shrouded, despite Yevgeny Prigozhin’s confession, in a halo of mystery.
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