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Who the hell is Evgeny Prigozhin?

59 minutes
Who the hell is Evgeny Prigozhin?

A couple of months ago, videos from Russian prisons started appearing online showing a beefy-looking, bald man addressing large crowds of inmates, trying to recruit them as mercenaries to go fight (and quite possibly die, he admitted) in Ukraine. “Do you have anybody who can pull you out of the slammer when you’ve still got 10 years on your sentence? There are two who can get you out: Allah and God, and it will be in a wooden box. I’ll take you alive, though I won’t always return you that way.” He then gives the prisoners five minutes to decide if they’ll join his private military company.

The man speaking here is Evgeny Prigozhin, an ex-con himself and now a jack of all trades when it comes to the dark side of the Russian elite. He’s known as Vladimir Putin’s favorite chef, a restauranteur from St. Petersburg who caters for the president and supplies food to the military and many public schools. He operates so-called “troll farms” and an empire of fake news outlets that he now openly admits were created to meddle in politics, particularly in the United States. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (not just this February but all the way back to the start in 2014), Prigozhin’s most important dirty work for the Kremlin has been through his mercenary group Wagner.

For a better understanding of Evgeny Prigozhin’s current significance as a public figure in Russia, The Naked Pravda spoke to five journalists and experts.

Timestamps for this episode:

Producer, sound editing, and mixing — Kevin Rothrock

Send any questions or comments to [email protected]

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