Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner Group, a private military contractor, has led his forces into Rostov-on-Don, Russia, sparking concern that he is declaring civil war against the state.
The Kremlin has accused him of “armed rebellion,” but Prigozhin has vowed to go to any lengths to topple Russia’s military leadership.
Prigozhin has been a prominent mercenary leader for years and has been close to Russian President Vladimir Putin since the 90s.
He first gained notoriety during the Ukraine war and has been linked to various criminal activities.
Prigozhin’s criminal record dates back to 1979 when he was convicted of theft, followed by robbery and theft two years later. He served nine years in prison before starting a chain of hot dog stands, which eventually evolved into high-end restaurants in St. Petersburg.
Prigozhin used his connections in St. Petersburg to establish a catering business and win lucrative government contracts.
He became known as “Putin’s chef” and expanded into other sectors, including media and a notorious “troll factory” that led to his indictment in the US for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Earlier this year, Prigozhin admitted to founding, leading, and funding Wagner, a private mercenary company accused of human rights abuses in Africa.
Prigozhin’s immense wealth has been amassed from state contracts, and he has been described as a billionaire.