The world was shocked when news broke out that Russian oligarch and leader of the Wagner private military company, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, died in a mysterious plane crash on August 23, 2023. Prigozhin, who was once a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had led a rebellion against the Russian government just a few months earlier in June of this year. The circumstances surrounding his death, as well as his rise and fall from power, have raised many questions about Russia’s role in the world. Although the mysterious plane crash and the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin are still under investigation, this event could have an impact on Russia’s global positioning.
Who was Yevgeny Prigozhin?
Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin was born in the former Soviet Union and had a humble beginning. He started his career as a chef in a school canteen before venturing into the catering business. He later secured contracts with the Russian military and then expanded his portfolio to other areas, such as construction and security services. Prigozhin’s ties with Putin began in the early 2000s when he started providing catering services for Putin’s government. Over the years, Prigozhin’s businesses expanded, eventually leading him to become one of the wealthiest men in Russia. Prigozhin was a controversial Russian oligarch and businessman who was one of the closest allies and confidants of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was renowned as being one of the influential people behind Russian propaganda, cyber attacks, and private military groups called the Wagner Group.
His Connection to Wagner
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which led to the establishment of private military companies, such as Wagner, that were used to accomplish covert military objectives. Prigozhin was one of the key figures in the Wagner group and was responsible for recruiting mercenaries from across the world and deploying them to conflict zones like Syria and Ukraine. Funded by the Russian state, Wagner Group has played a role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Russian interest in Syria and Africa. In 2022 Prigozhin also confirmed that his companies played a role in interfering with the 2016 US election.
His Rebellion and Death
In June 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an armed rebellion against Putin’s government, citing disagreements with the government’s foreign policy. His rebellion was short-lived, and he was eventually killed in a plane crash in August 2023. The details surrounding the crash are still unclear, but many speculate that it was a targeted assassination. Shortly before his death, Prigozhin had been reportedly working on a tell-all book about Putin’s government, which added fuel to speculation that his death was no accident.
What Does Prigozhin’s Death Mean for Russia’s Role in the World?
Prigozhin’s death is a significant loss to the Wagner group and Putin’s government. Prigozhin’s rebellion and his desire to write a tell-all book indicate that there is some discontentment within Putin’s ranks. Additionally, the unacknowledged use of military private companies, such as Wagner, suggests that Putin’s agenda may go beyond traditional military means to meet its objectives. Prigozhin’s death also highlights the pervasive culture of violence within Russia’s political and business elites. It is unclear how the Kremlin will respond to Prigozhin’s death, but the incident may further alienate Russia from the international community.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin raise many questions about Russia’s role in the world. His rise to power, connections to Putin, rebellion against the government, and eventual death, all speak to the complex and shadowy world of Russian politics. Moving forward, it is unclear how the Kremlin will respond to Prigozhin’s death, but the international community needs to monitor Russia’s activities closely, not just in terms of its military objectives but also in terms of its influence operations. The world must never forget the cost of unchecked power and greed.