The unknown future of Wagner’s business empire after the mutiny

Chocolate Museum in Saint Petersburg. A gold mine in the Central African Republic. Oil and gas developments off the Syrian coast.

economic adventures Eugene F. Prigozhina former sausage seller turned warlord Wagner who launched a brief insurrection against the Russian army last month, goes as far as the thousands of mercenaries he has deployed across Ukraine, Africa and the Middle East.

Vladimir F. Putin of Russia, with Mr. Prigozhin, right, in a photo released by Russian state media, during a 2010 visit to Prigozhin’s catering company in Saint Petersburg. Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, via The Associated Press

through a wide network shell companies and brokers, Prigozhin’s activities included gastronomy, action film production, beer and vodka manufacturing, logging, diamond mining, and hiring people to farm disinformation andn Foreign elections, including the 2016 US elections.

The exact size of your work is a file puzzle.

With Prigozhin’s whereabouts unknown, the fate of his sprawling empire is uncertain.

president Vladimir Putin It alleged that Russia funded Prigozhin’s businesses, but it is unclear to what extent the Kremlin controls the business network, which stretches thousands of kilometers from Moscow, according to experts.

“It certainly won’t be exactly the same as before, in terms of who runs it, how much censorship the Kremlin will have, how much constraints Wagner will allow it to operate,” said Caterina Ducssy, an expert on the affairs. Irregular Warfare is at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research organization.

"Wagner" Graffiti on the wall of a classroom at a school in Velika Oleksandrivka, Ukraine, which was occupied by Russian soldiers until the city was liberated by Ukrainian forces in October.  Photo by David Guttenfelder for The New York Times
Wagner is graffitied on the wall of a classroom at a school in Velika Oleksandrivka, Ukraine, which was occupied by Russian soldiers until the city’s liberation by Ukrainian forces in October. Photo by David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Here’s a look at Prigozhin’s business interests.

Russia and Ukraine

Hotels, real estate and mercenaries.

From humble beginnings as an amateur cross-country skier and former hustler, Prigozhin has carved his way through the turmoil of post-Soviet Russia, laying the foundations of his empire by opening hot dog stands in 1990 and later catering to the Kremlin. which earned him the nickname “Putin’s chef“.

Over the decades, he has amassed billions in government contracts and controlled a huge portfolio of companies, most of them in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city and his hometown.

Wagner fighters now guard Palmyra, a major tourist enclave in Syria.  Photo by Omar Sandaqati/The Associated Press
Wagner fighters now guard Palmyra, a major tourist enclave in Syria. Photo by Omar Sandaqati/The Associated Press

Prigozhin was engaged in construction, gastronomy and entertainment.

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He ran a media company, which he’d been dismantling since the riots, and he was a pioneer Troll farms that attempted to shape the 2016 US presidential election.

His companies operate hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and a gourmet grocery store on St. Petersburg’s main artery.

It is not clear whether their companies have been consistently profitable:

Some have failed, others have stayed afloat.

Over the years, Prigozhin has used money from government contracts paid to some of his companies to finance other projects, including shady missions apparently assigned to him by the Kremlin.

“They were all interconnected, these ships, in the sense of general management and in the sense of a possible flow of money,” said Marat Gabidullin, a former assistant to Prigozhin who fought for the Wagner Group before seeking asylum in France.

The Russian government paid the Wagner Group approx $10,000 million, according to Russian state media. Prigozhin was awarded contracts worth Another $10 billion From the Kremlin to his catering company.

On Thursday the autocratic leader of Belarus, Alexander G. Lukashenko, who intervened in the rebellion, he indicated that at least part of Wagner’s fighting force could stay the same.

In June, Prigozhin admitted that he had used profits from lucrative state contracts to finance Wagner’s Africa, Syria and other placesbut always “to pursue the interests of the Russian state.”

Everything works like a business model:

“It uses the state’s resources to carry out various projects. Within this, it gets its own premium,” said Gabidulin.


hired soldiers, and interests in gold and timber.

Wagner’s main business in Africa is mercenaries:

From Libya in the north to Mozambique in the south, the group has deployed forces in five African countries, providing security for presidents, supporting authoritarian leaders and fighting armed groups, often at great cost to civilians.

In the Central African Republic, Wagner provides security for the president, Faustin Arching Touaderaand army training.

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Observers have described the group’s actions in the country as a “state takeover” because of the way Wagner influenced political decisions in favor of their own interests at the expense of the population.

According to the US, the military-led government in the West African country Financial Wagner paid for it $200 million From the end of 2021, especially for mercenaries to fight affiliated groups Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Wagner’s clients also helped Kick out a UN peacekeeping operation a decade, according to White House officials, forcing Mali to rely almost exclusively on Russia.

In addition to the mercenary business, Prigozhin’s subsidiaries were present in more than a dozen countries.

They extract gold Sudan and the Central African Republic, They also export lumber, make beer and vodka, operate a radio station, produce action films, and organize beauty pageants.

A subsidiary of Prigozhin also controls the largest gold mine in the Central African Republic and recently signed new mining permits for the next 25 years.

The mine can bring income to the group $100 million a yearAccording to Hans Merkett, a metallurgical researcher at the Brussels-based organization IPIS.

Shielding against the rebels, Fidel Guangica, a top adviser to the country’s president, claimed that Wagner was making high-quality wood available to Central Africans through his logging business and selling cheap beer.

So we say to them: ‘Take the diamonds, take the gold,'” Gwandjika said of what Central African officials offer Wagner for his services.

“The West is jealous.”


Protectors of Bashar al-Assad and oil and gas prospectors.

When Prigozhin launched his rebellion last month, Russian forces in Syria surrounded several bases where Wagner’s mercenaries were stationed, including around the capital, Damascus.

Fearing the movement of Wagner fighters, the Syrian forces set up checkpoints around the bases. The country’s intelligence services were put on alert and communications were blocked.

The response was another demonstration of how far Prigozhin is.

Officially, Russia intervened in Syria in late 2015 to help the authoritarian regime of President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide against opponents trying to overthrow him.

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But experts say Russian fighters belonging to a group known as the Slav Legion have been discovered in Syria since 2013.

Although the detailed links between the Slavic Legion and Wagner remain unclear, many of Wagner’s commanders were originally part of the Legion, according to Gregory Waters, a researcher at the Middle East Institute.

Wagner confirmed its presence in Syria in 2017.

While the Russian military brought in its air force and commanders, most of the front-line personnel came from Wagner, Waters said.

Wagner fighters have seized territory from opposition fighters and the Islamic State group and have also guarded the oil and gas fields and Palmyra, a major tourist spot.

American intelligence officials described Wagner’s goal in Syria as: Seizing oil and gas fields And protect them for the lion.

At least four companies linked to Wagner and registered in Russia have permits to explore fields in Syria, according to Lou Osborne, an analyst at All eyes are on WagnerAn open source research group.

All were sanctioned by the US Treasury Department.

According to Candace Rondeau, a Wagner expert and director of New America, a Washington think tank, these activities have been instrumental in Russia’s transition to An energy superpower.

“With Russia, you cannot separate military interests from energy interests,” Rondo said.

Gabidullin, a former Wagner fighter, said Prigozhin has a far-reaching network abroad overgrown So that the Kremlin can fully control it.

“He has a lot of specialists there,” he said.

“It’s the DoD professionals who need to learn from their staff.”

Eliane Peltier is a West African reporter. He joined The Times in 2017 and previously worked in Paris and London. He now lives in Dakar, Senegal. More on Elain Peltier Ivan Nikiporenko has been a reporter for The Times since 2015, covering politics, economics, sports and culture in Russia and the former Soviet republics. He grew up in St. Petersburg (Russia) and Pyatikatki (Ukraine). More on Ivan Negeporenko Raja Abdul Rahim is a Jerusalem-based Middle East correspondent covering the Levant. More on Rajaa Abdel Rahim

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"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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