Who is the man who calling for a revolt against Russian forces and directing mercenary troops to take the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and march on Moscow?
Until recently, Yevgeny Prigozhin was a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and operator of unofficial disinformation efforts and military actions in support of Russian policy. He is the head of the private military group Wagner.
What is the Wagner Group?
As far as researchers can tell, the Wagner Group actually doesn't seem to be one single company. It's more like an affiliation among many businesses and assets, linked by Russian ownership and networks.
The group emerged in 2014 in Ukraine, helping the Russian military annex Crimea, and since then has reportedly been involved in a range of global conflicts from Syria to Libya to Mali, usually assisting Russia's military or Russian political interests.
The group's mercenary fighters have been accused of undermining sovereignty and committing rape, torture and summary execution.
Prior to the war in Ukraine, Wagner mercenaries fought against U.S. forces while boosting the Assad regime in Syria, and have been active in advancing Russian interests in Africa — including Libya, the Central African Republic and Mozambique.
In 2014, the Wagner Group entered Ukraine undercover to help Russian-backed separatists, destabilizing the eastern Donbas region and helping Russia seize the strategically important Crimea peninsula.
When was Prigozhin's connection to the Wagner Group made public?
Until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Prigozhin had long denied any connection the the Wagner Group and its mercenaries.
But after video emerged of him helping out, Prigozhin publicly embraced his role and later spoke openly of his dissatisfaction with Russia's conventional military forces.
"I am a representative of a private military company – you have probably heard of it; it's called PMC Wagner," Prigozhin said in the video.
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