From imprisonment for robbery to the leader of a private army - this was the turbulent career of Yevgen Prigozhin. The head of the Wagner Group, called "Putin's cook", for many years.
Born on June 1, 1961, Prigozhin entered adult life with a ten-year prison sentence. He was then convicted of robberies and frauds committed in St. Petersburg.
He was released in 1990 as a result of an amnesty. Then he started working as a hot dog seller. According to Russian journalists following the fate of the oligarch, at that time he met Vladimir Putin, who was the main adviser to the mayor of St. Petersburg.
Using his contacts and political connections, Yevgen Prigozhin began to receive large state contracts, e.g. in the provision of catering in the Kremlin. It was then that he received the title of "Putin's cook".
Quick financial success and influence in the Kremlin enabled Prigozhin to set up a private military company of the Wagner Group. Almost immediately, his mercenaries began to go to Syria, Libya, and the Central African Republic, where they conducted combat missions.
The Wagner group is tightly controlled by the Kremlin and, according to experts, is a silent contractor for the uncomfortable missions of the Russian Federation, where a regular army cannot be used for political reasons.
The participation of mercenaries in the oligarch's private army was also confirmed during the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2014. The activities of the Wagner Group were most often diversionary and aggressive. The Wagner group is credited with shooting down a plane with forty Ukrainian paratroopers and nine crew members.
Almost from the beginning of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, the Wagner Group has been actively involved in frontline operations. It was used primarily in the battles in the Donetsk direction. Yevgen Prigozhin himself did not participate in the fighting. However, he was present near the front.
The organization participated in the battle for Popasna, Soledar and as the main force in the battle for Bakhmut.
It was during the capture of Bakhmut that the conflict between Yevgen Prigozhin and the Russian Ministry of Defense began to escalate. The owner of the Wagner Group openly criticized General Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov.
The conflict led to a rebellion by Prigozhin, who accused the Russian armed forces of attacking his mercenaries. "Putin's cook" announced the start of the "March of Justice". Wagner's group occupied Rostov-on-Don, and Yevgen Prigozhin demanded that the authorities remove the defense minister. After a few hours, however, the action was canceled, as it was emphasized, thanks to the considerable help of Aleksandr Lukashenko.
An Embraer ERG 135 plane belonging to Yevgen Prigozhin crashed around 6:30 p.m. local time. According to the Air Transport Agency, the head of the Wagner Group was on board the machine.
"An investigation has been launched into the Embraer plane crash that happened tonight in the Tver region. According to the passenger list, the name of Yevgen Prigozhin is among them", it said.
According to information published by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, there were ten people on board, all of them died.