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Yegueni Prigozhin, a businessman close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, admitted on Monday that in 2014 he created the Wagner Group, a private military company, which is forbidden by law in Russia and is also present in the military campaign in Ukraine.
“In 2014, when the genocide of the Russian population of the Dombash began (…) I, like many businessmen, went to the industrial estates where ‘Cossacks’ gathered and tried with money to assemble a group that would travel to defend the Russians,” the businessman revealed in a comment posted on the social network VKontakt.
However, in his words, he soon realized that half of the ‘Cossacks’ and paramilitaries were fraudsters and that half of those who received the money hired volunteers who were sent to certain death without equipment.
“Then I went to one of the polygons and took care of it myself. I cleaned old weapons myself, looked at the issue of bulletproof vests, and found specialists who helped me. At that moment, on 1 May 2014, the group of patriots was born, which later received the name Wagner Group,” Prigozhin noted.
He stressed that it was only thanks to the courage of the Wagner Group members that “the liberation of the Lugansk airport and many other territories” in eastern Ukraine was possible.
“There were difficult times, very difficult times. Every dog tried to throw slime on them and, as you know, on me, accusing us of all sorts of non-existent sins,” the businessman added.
Independent Russian media have also revealed that Wagner mercenaries are currently fighting on the side of the Russian Armed Forces in the war in Ukraine.
Wagner Group members, Prigozhin said, are “heroes who defended the Syrian people and other peoples of Arab countries, underprivileged Africans and Latin Americans, and became one of the pillars of our homeland”.
Until recently, the businessman sued journalists and anyone who linked him to the Wagner Group.
Prigozhin is nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because of his proximity to the Russian president and his restaurant business.
According to an investigation by Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalni in 2017, the businessman is said to have won state contracts worth at least 2.5 billion euros, including one to deliver food to the Russian army.
The United States sanctioned this oligarch for his role in the campaign of interference and disinformation, especially against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election, which was won by Republican Donald Trump.