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27 June 2023

Putin's chef's special

The millionaire mercenary chief who long benefitted from the powerful patronage of President Vladimir Putin has moved into the global spotlight with a dramatic rebellion against Russia's military that challenged the authority of Putin himself.

Yevgeny Prigozhin is the 62-year-old owner of the Kremlin-allied Wagner Group, a private army of inmate recruits and other mercenaries that has fought some of the deadliest battles in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On Friday, Prigozhin abruptly escalated months of scathing criticism of Russia’s conduct of the war, calling for an armed uprising to oust the defense minister, and then rolling toward Moscow with his soldiers-for-hire.

As Putin's government declared a “counterterrorism” alert and scrambled to seal off Moscow with checkpoints, Prigozhin just as abruptly stood down the following day. As part of the deal to defuse the crisis, he agreed to move to Belarus and was seen late Saturday retreating with his forces from Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia where they had taken over the military headquarters.

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