A mercenary group boss is rumored to take over Vladimir Putin in leading Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Yevgeny Prigozhin is one of the Russian President’s closest confidants and is popularly known as “Putin’s Chef” as he owns a series of restaurants and a catering business that has hosted dinners for Putin and foreign dignitaries in the past.

According to the New York Post, food is not Prigozhin’s only business as he recently proclaimed to be the founder of the infamous Wagner mercenary group and is also reputed to be the leader of Russia’s host of cyber warriors and hackers. Prigozhin has become more daring as of late, as he has been selling his mercenary group to be the country’s most effective fighting force, praising them at every opportunity while undermining many of Putin’s key appointees. Prigozhin’s public support continues to grow especially among extremists as they believe the Russian President's old age seems to be failing him. This has led many to speculate that he may eventually replace, if not usurp Putin, and may be more menacing than any of those within the Kremlin.

Prigozhin has also been targeting officials at the Kremlin, more particularly targeting military leaders, and unabashedly criticizing them for their poor tactical decisions concerning the Ukraine war. He has also openly pointed fingers at them for Russia’s staggering war effort. Russian opposition figure Lyubov Sobol also remarked that chaos may ensue should Putin’s reign come to an end. He cited how this will turn into a free-for-all amongst the country’s elite.

Prigozhin has also notably passed the blame for his mercenary group’s failure to capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. This is despite receiving many advantageous gifts from Putin, such as Russia’s best tanks, missiles, and attack crafts. A recent video by the Wagner group has circulated on Russian social media, showing the mercenaries cursing Putin’s appointed Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff, Valery Gerasimov. They berated Gerasimov for poor tactical decisions as well as the lack of ammunition and inadequate equipment. Despite all the negative criticisms, Gerasimov supposedly remains a top contender to replace Putin.

Yevgeny Prigozhin (R) and Vladimir Putin
Yevgeny Prigozhin (R), who controls the Wagner private military group, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo by: SPUTNIK via AFP/Alexey Druzhinin

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