How Putin’s leader became Russia’s second most powerful man – podcast | News

When Russian troops arrived in Ukraine last February, it was with the strategy of quickly overthrowing the Kyiv government and installing another friend of Vladimir Putin. It was, the Russian president said, a “special military operation”. But the operation failed and ever since more troops are needed as the war nears its first anniversary.

As Guardian Pjotr ​​Sauer recount Michael Safi, it is no longer just the professional soldiers of the Russian state who are involved in the fighting. Increasingly, the private mercenary company Wagner has become the backbone of many battles taking place in Ukraine. Its ranks have swelled to around 50,000, according to Western intelligence estimates, including tens of thousands of former prisoners recruited from Russian prisons, often personally by Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

His own story is remarkable: he served time in prison as a young man before becoming a street food vendor, events coordinator and then private military commander. His rise says a lot about the state of modern Russia. But it also made him a lot of enemies.

Yevgeny Prigozhin

Photograph: Reuters

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