Who is Yevgeny Prigojine, the Kremlin henchman?

He dares to swing everything right now. Long in the shadows, the Russian businessman Evguéni Prigojine now claims to be the craftsman of the Kremlin’s base works, whether it is electoral interference abroad or the Wagner group, his formidable paramilitary organization. . Last admission to date, Monday, on the eve of the mid-term elections in the United States and after years of denials, this businessman reputed to be close to Vladimir Putin boasted of carrying out electoral manipulation operations. “We interfered, we do and we will continue to do so. Carefully, precisely, surgically, in a way that is unique to us,” said Yevgeny Prigojine, quoted as always in a social media post from his company Concord.

This 61-year-old man with a shaved head, who is the subject of Western sanctions, has thus recognized what he has been accused of for years, the United States presenting him as the organizer of influence operations carried out on the social networks during the 2016 US presidential election, most often to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy against that of Donald Trump.

At the head of Wagner

A few weeks earlier, he had admitted, boastfully, to being the founder in 2014 of the paramilitary group Wagner, active in Ukraine as in Syria, but also in Africa to advance the interests of the Kremlin where it wants to act in a stealthy way. “These guys, heroes, defended the Syrian people, other peoples of Arab countries, the poor Africans and Latin Americans, they became a pillar of our homeland,” he claimed at the end of September. In October, he pushes this logic of advertising even further, installing with great fanfare in a glass building in Saint Petersburg the headquarters of the “private military company Wagner”.

This passage from shadow to light began in mid-September when he appeared – in all likelihood – on an online video in the process of haranguing with banter the inmates of a Russian penitentiary so that they engage in Wagner and leave to fight in Ukraine, in exchange for an amnesty. He has since publicly admitted that his group was operating on Ukrainian battlefields, notably in Bakhmout, a city on Ukraine’s eastern front, pounded for months and which Moscow hopes to conquer after a series of military setbacks in the rest of the country.

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Former convict

The world of prison, Evguéni Prigojine knows it well, having himself spent 9 years in detention during the Soviet era for common law offences. It was released in 1990, when the USSR was collapsing. Originally like Vladimir Putin from Saint Petersburg, he first set up a successful business selling hot dogs. He then launched several activities in the restaurant business, including a luxury restaurant in Saint Petersburg where the young Poutine dined, who then passed from the secret services to the town hall of the city. After the accession in 2000 of Vladimir Putin to the presidency, his group of restoration will officiate in the Kremlin. This has earned him the nickname of “Putin’s cook” and the reputation of having become a billionaire thanks to the public contracts he obtains. It is this money that he would therefore have used to found Wagner, a private army initially composed of hardened veterans of the Russian army and special services.

In 2018, while this group, already noticed in Ukraine, Syria and Libya, is suspected of gaining a foothold in Africa, three Russian journalists investigating the affairs of the paramilitary company are killed in the Central African Republic. Yevgeny Prigojine had already come out of his reserve in 2021 to attack opponent Alexei Navalny, then Vladimir Putin’s number one enemy and slayer of corruption, who had claimed in one of his very popular video investigations among Russian youth that a Concord contractor was serving spoiled food in schools.

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