Russian Oligarchs

Why is Yevgeny Prighozin Nicknamed Chef Putin?

Why is Yevgeny Prighozin Nicknamed Chef Putin?

Russian authorities confirmed the death of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin


Yevgeny Prigozhin, a man of diverse talents and controversial reputation, has been a prominent figure in Russian politics and military affairs. Known for his close association with President Vladimir Putin, Prigozhin’s rise to power and influence has been marked by his role as the founder of the Wagner Group, a private mercenary force that played a significant role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This article delves into the life, career, and legacy of Yevgeny Prigozhin, shedding light on his background, his ties to Putin, and the formation and activities of the Wagner Group.

Early Life of Yevgeny Prigozhin and Culinary Ventures

Born on June 1, 1961, in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Yevgeny Prigozhin grew up in the tough neighborhoods of the city. His humble beginnings would later stand in stark contrast to his immense wealth and influence. Prigozhin’s path to prominence took an unexpected turn when he found himself entangled in criminal activities. In 1981, he was convicted of assault, robbery, and fraud, resulting in a 13-year prison sentence.

After his release from prison in the early 1990s, Prigozhin embarked on a new venture, venturing into the food business. He started with a humble hot dog stand, eventually expanding his culinary empire to include a chain of restaurants in St. Petersburg. It was during this time that he crossed paths with Vladimir Putin, who would later become the Russian president. Prigozhin’s reputation as a skilled chef and caterer caught Putin’s attention, leading to a close association between the two.

The Rise of “Putin’s Chef”

Prigozhin’s culinary prowess and business acumen earned him the moniker “Putin’s chef.” His restaurants, including the renowned New Island, became favored dining destinations for Putin and foreign dignitaries visiting St. Petersburg. Prigozhin’s ability to serve prestigious guests with finesse and professionalism solidified his position as a trusted ally in Putin’s inner circle.

As his catering business flourished, Prigozhin expanded his reach, securing lucrative contracts to provide food services to schools and the Russian military. His company, Concord Catering, gained prominence for its ability to deliver quality meals on a large scale. Prigozhin’s success in the catering industry further cemented his close ties to Putin and his growing influence within Russian political circles.

From Catering to Conflict: The Birth of the Wagner Group

In the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Yevgeny Prigozhin shifted his focus from culinary ventures to military endeavors. He founded the Wagner Group, a private mercenary force named after either one of its early commanders or the renowned composer Richard Wagner. The group quickly gained notoriety for its involvement in conflicts, particularly in Ukraine and Syria.

Despite initially denying any connection to the Wagner Group, Prigozhin eventually acknowledged his role as its founder in late 2022. The Wagner Group, operating as a de facto private military service for the Kremlin, carried out missions aligned with Russian interests in various regions, including Africa and the Middle East. UN investigators accused the group of committing war crimes and human rights abuses, further raising concerns about Prigozhin’s activities.

Wagner Group’s Role in Ukraine and Yevgeny Prigozhin ‘s Criticism

The Wagner Group played a pivotal role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Yevgeny Prigozhin at the helm. The group’s mercenaries, including convicts recruited from Russian prisons, bolstered Russia’s military efforts in key battles, such as the intense conflict in the city of Bakhmut. However, as the war dragged on, Prigozhin grew increasingly critical of Russia’s military leadership, particularly Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

Prigozhin’s public criticism of the military brass and their handling of the Ukraine war signaled a rift within the Russian power structure. He accused them of failing to adequately support his forces and provide sufficient ammunition. In a dramatic turn of events, Prigozhin launched an armed insurrection against Putin’s government in June 2023, posing a significant challenge to the president’s authority.

The Mutiny and its Aftermath

Prigozhin’s mutiny against the Russian military leadership sparked a tense standoff between his Wagner forces and Putin’s government. The armed rebellion began with the Wagner Group advancing towards Moscow, engaging in clashes with Russian forces and causing casualties. The situation escalated rapidly, threatening to plunge the country into further chaos and violence.

However, a deal brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko halted the rebel advance. Criminal charges against Prigozhin were dropped, and he was expected to relocate to neighboring Belarus. The sudden turn of events surprised observers, leaving many questioning the extent of Prigozhin’s ongoing influence and the implications for his relationship with Putin and the Russian government.

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Mysterious Demise

Following the failed mutiny, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s fate remained uncertain. Reports of his appearances in St. Petersburg and even Africa fueled speculation about his continued involvement in political and military affairs. However, on August 23, 2023, tragedy struck when Prigozhin was reportedly aboard a plane that crashed in Russia’s Tver region, resulting in his presumed death.

The circumstances surrounding the crash remain under investigation, with no evidence linking the incident to the Kremlin or Russian security services. Genetic tests have confirmed that Prigozhin was among the 10 individuals who lost their lives in the crash. The demise of this enigmatic figure has raised questions about the future of the Wagner Group and the lingering impact of his controversial actions.

Legacy and Controversies

Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves behind a complex legacy marked by his close association with Putin, his culinary success, and his role in the Wagner Group. While some view him as a loyal ally and skilled entrepreneur, others criticize him for his involvement in conflicts and alleged human rights abuses. The Wagner Group, under his leadership, faced accusations of war crimes and atrocities in various regions.

Prigozhin’s mutiny against the Russian military leadership revealed deeper divisions within the country’s power structure and raised questions about the government’s ability to maintain control over private military forces. His sudden demise has left a void in the leadership of the Wagner Group, leaving uncertainty about the group’s future and the implications for Russia’s military and foreign policy.


Yevgeny Prigozhin’s journey from a restaurateur to the founder of the Wagner Group and leader of an armed rebellion against the Russian government exemplifies the complexities of his character and his impact on Russian politics and military affairs. His close ties to Putin, his culinary success, and his controversial military endeavors have made him a figure of both admiration and criticism.

As the investigation into the plane crash continues, the full extent of Prigozhin’s influence and his legacy within the Wagner Group remain subjects of intrigue. The repercussions of his actions and the future trajectory of the private mercenary force he established will undoubtedly shape Russia’s military and foreign policy landscape in the years to come.

Alexander Harris

Alexander Harris - The Digital Bloodhound Alexander isn't your typical investigative journalist. He thrives in the digital world, scouring the web for hidden connections and leaked documents. An expert data analyst and coder, he builds intricate digital trails to expose fraud, cybercrime, and government overreach. Alexander Harris began his career as a journalist. He is one of the founders of the " Russian Oligarchs Tracker Unit ".

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