Private Military Contractor Wagner’s Leader Calls for Armed Rebellion Against Russia’s Defense Minister

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The head of the Russian private military contractor Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has recently sparked controversy by calling for an armed rebellion aimed at ousting Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu. Prigozhin, who has been critical of the country’s military leadership in the past, accused Shoigu of ordering a rocket strike on Wagner’s field camps in Ukraine. This article examines Prigozhin’s statements, Wagner’s role in the war, and the background of the controversial figure behind the private military contractor.

Prigozhin’s Accusations and Response:

Yevgeny Prigozhin posted a series of video and audio recordings in which he accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of being responsible for the rocket strike on Wagner’s camps in Ukraine. He declared that his troops would retaliate against Shoigu in an armed rebellion, emphasizing that it was a “march of justice” rather than a military coup. The Defense Ministry denied carrying out the attack, leading to a swift criminal investigation into Prigozhin by Russian security services.

Background of Yevgeny Prigozhin:

Prigozhin, a 62-year-old entrepreneur, had a criminal past and served a 12-year prison sentence for robbery and assault. After his release, he established a successful restaurant business in St. Petersburg, where he developed a connection with then-Deputy Mayor Vladimir Putin. Leveraging this connection, Prigozhin secured lucrative catering contracts with the Russian government, earning him the nickname “Putin’s chef.” He later expanded into media and gained notoriety for his involvement in an infamous internet “troll factory” and subsequent indictment in the United States for election meddling in 2016.

Wagner’s Operations and Reputation:

Wagner, named after its first commander Dmitry Utkin, a retired lieutenant colonel of the Russian military’s special forces, became active in eastern Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Wagner’s involvement allowed Russia to maintain deniability while supporting the separatist insurgency in Ukraine. The group also operated in Syria, fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces, and participated in conflicts in Libya, the Central African Republic, and Mali. Wagner mercenaries have faced accusations of human rights abuses, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and destabilizing activities in various African countries.

Wagner’s Role in Ukraine:

As regular Russian troops faced setbacks and heavy attrition, Wagner assumed a more prominent role in the conflict. Prigozhin personally recruited fighters from Russian prisons, offering pardons for those who survived a tour of duty with Wagner. The group’s estimated personnel in Ukraine reached approximately 50,000, with a combination of contractors and convicts. Prigozhin’s criticisms of the Russian military leadership revolved around their alleged failure to adequately supply Wagner with ammunition and support, leading to his threat of withdrawing his forces.


Yevgeny Prigozhin’s call for an armed rebellion against Russia’s defense minister has raised concerns and led to a criminal investigation. Wagner, the private military contractor led by Prigozhin, has played a significant role in conflicts across the world, including Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, and Mali. The group has faced accusations of human rights abuses and has been at odds with Russia’s military leadership. The situation continues to unfold, with implications for both domestic and international security.