From Trusted Associate to Rebel Leader: Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner Saga


The dramatic events that disrupts russia over the weekend with an armed column of wagner private military coup approaching towards moscow have sent alarming beat across the world – any severe challenge to russia’s government of president Vladimir Putin could destroy not just the lives of Russians but also the peace and stability of the world order , which is already pretty fragile and getting tilted.

It’s been running all around the world restlessly , which gives us a chance to check the nitty gritty as well as the deep understanding of both the terms Black saturday and PMC Wagner,which is private mercenary contingent wagner.

Throughout history there have been groups of people who give us services, fighting issues or as soldiers , the middle but important part of the term PMC,

These are called mercenary soldiers. This is related to the 2014 Ukraine crisis,when the Crimean peninsula was invaded by Russia as its root creeps back to the Russian land.The basic concept in a simplified format is they are contractors and they will help a nation to get soldiers in crisis by hiring people those who are interested in fighting for a nation without being part of an institutionalized army of that nation rather want to be private contractors  or private soldiers. The person who started the PMC Wagner was a very important deputy of Putin himself. Before analyzing the present development we have to go deep on the man behind Wagner and the historical elements of this tussle.

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Yevgeny Prigozhin , the founder of Wagner Group and led it to fight Ukraine standing with Russia is undoubtedly the focal point of the so-called Russian coup. Wagner Group mercenaries have seized control of all military installations in Voronezh, a city located approximately 500 km south of Moscow. According to Prigozhin himself, his mercenary forces also hold authority over Rostov-on-Don, a city situated roughly 1,100 km south of the capital.

An eagerly evolving political tension in this matter should be discussed with the route of Yevgeny Prigozhin and his journey from a known chief , an African warlord to the powerful mercenary boss of Russia. As he vows to topple Russia’s defense leadership it’s inevitably relevant to check the fate of Prigoshin and the Wagner group.

As Putin ascended from being a KGB insider to a prominent Russian leader, Prigoshin, on the other hand, experienced a different path. He spent a decade in prison, beginning at the age of 18, due to his involvement in robberies committed alongside his friends. After his release, he began by selling hot dogs.

In 1990, as the Soviet Union faced its decline, Saint Petersburg stood on the verge of a monumental transformation, offering immense wealth to those astute or ruthless enough to seize the opportunities. With great agility, he swiftly gained influence in the hospitality sector. Starting with a wine shop, he ventured into opening a restaurant. By the time Putin assumed the presidency, he found himself assisting in serving state dinners, earning him the moniker “Putin’s chef.” Putin facilitated Prigoshin in establishing a school lunch factory and Prigoshin obtained at least partial ownership of Concord Management and Consulting.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Prigoshin found himself presented with new opportunities. Putin refuted the involvement of regular Russian troops in the annexation. Thus, the concept of a private military group emerged to carry out covert operations, despite being illegal in Russia. Although these groups operated independently from the government, their actions were coordinated with the defense ministry, causing significant disruption. Among them, Prigoshin’s group rose to prominence, securing lucrative contracts worth over a billion dollars to cater to the military. As his influence grew, it began to unsettle certain officials at the defense ministry, particularly as his operations expanded into other countries.

By 2018, Prigoshin’s endeavors had extended their reach to encompass at least ten African countries. Offering security services and arms training, he also secured mining rights and explored various business prospects. Operating this extensive global network from an office in Saint Petersburg, not far from where he had started his restaurant two decades prior, Prigoshin held no official positions.He frequently participated in high-level meetings concerning defense contracts. As a tool for Putin’s overseas interventions, he denied any direct involvement. In September 2022, Prigoshin proudly announced his founding of the Wagner group back in 2014, which came to light after a video of him inside a prison went viral.

He presented an opportunity to the prisoners, offering them a chance to fight in Ukraine. He warned them of the likelihood of death at the front but promised their release after six months, along with ample compensation. His ambitions grew exponentially, surpassing expectations over a year into the war. He began to openly criticize Russia’s defense ministry, accusing them of attempting to undermine his accomplishments and questioning their leadership. Alleging that Russian soldiers had killed his troops, he sought revenge. Today, the inhabitants of Rostov-on-Don awoke to find the Wagner militia taking control of the Main Street. His intentions were clear: seeking vengeance for his alleged fallen troops, he aimed to remove the military leadership. He declared that 25,000 of his fighters were advancing towards Moscow to restore justice, openly rebelling against Russia. Putin strongly denounced the group, branding it as treason and vowing severe punishment. With Wagner now on uncertain ground, numerous questions emerge: What will become of the Wagner units? What will happen to their overseas commitments as mercenaries? How many African countries will withdraw from the Wagner contract?

In February, French President Emmanuel Macron had already hinted at a looming problem, referring to the group as life insurance for failing regimes in Africa, predicting that African nations would eventually cease relying on Wagner as it only brought misery.

This can be considered as a recap in world history,which happened in 1917- russian revolution- how the mensheviks fought against the bolsheviks after the socialist revolution. Russia is not the same but a powerful autocratic nation under Putin as he could stop the march and ask them to either go back to Belarus or be a part of the Russian army.

Initially the Wagner group remained secretive and consisted of 5000 soldiers in africa and west asia but now it has a strength of 50000 just in Ukraine. In 2014 Ukraine and Crimea was one of the most successful campaigns for PMC among the countries they have been involved till date.then they moved into russia, Syria, Libya, Sudan the Central african republics, mozambique and mali. As of now the European Union has also prosecuted Wagner for doing extrajudicial killing.

 The uprising, referred to as the “march of justice” by Yevgeny Prigozhin, was an unprecedented event in modern Russian history but proved to be short-lived. it revealed vulnerabilities within the Russian state and society. Amidst the unfolding mutiny, President Putin addressed the nation on Saturday, emphasizing the critical nature of the country’s current struggle for its future. He stressed the need for unity and consolidation of all forces, considering any actions that divide the nation as a betrayal to both the people and the comrades fighting on the front lines. Drawing parallels, he likened the situation to 1917, when intrigues and disputes during the First World War led to significant upheaval, resulting in the collapse of the Army, state disintegration, and a civil war.

The issues raised by Mr. Prigozhin has shaken the foundation of the Russian government. Those ae Corruption, Poor decision making resulting in high casualties on the frontline, The idea of invading Ukraine itself resonate with the common people, Russia had lost tens of thousands of troops, Accused Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu of being the mastermind behind the invasion of Ukraine, driven by his personal ambition to enhance his own position and he also said that Mr. Shoigu has support from oligarchs seeking to exploit Ukrainian resources.

As a private soldier army with an explicit motive for money not for nationalism is raising questions on a nation’s administration and defense which can cause major cracks in the Russian society and government in the coming days. Undoubtedly the whole world is keeping an eye on Russia now.

sayanthana K
sayanthana K
English journalism student from IIMC Dhenkanal ( Indian institute of mass communication


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