Wagner succession: Yevgeny Prigozhin’s son ‘set to be next mercenary boss’

By Isaac M October 2, 2023

The 25-year-old son of Yevgeny Prigozhin is set to take over from his father and become the next boss of the Wagner group.

Pavel Prigozhin appears to be inheriting the vast majority of his father’s riches – including the mercenary group, properties, and about £100 million – according to a photograph posted on social media of what seems to be Prigozhin’s will.

He is now negotiating with the Russian national guard, Rosgvardia, over having the mercenary organisation rejoin combat in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War said.

Pavel Prigozhin appears to be inheriting the vast majority of his father’s riches

(east2west news)

It wrote in a report on Russia on Sunday: “A prominent Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel announced on October 1 that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s 25-year-old son Pavel Prigozhin has taken over ‘command’ of the Wagner Group, and that Pavel Prigozhin is negotiating with Rosgvardia about having the Wagner Group rejoin combat operations in Ukraine.”

Once a businessman with a catering empire friendly with Vladimir Putin – Yevgeny Prigozhin was even given the nickname “Putin’s chef” – Prigozhin accumulated vast wealth before going on to found the Kremlin-allied Wagner Group, which backed up Russia’s war in Ukraine.

However, in August, two months after the 62-year-old led his private militia in a failed rebellion against his country’s military leadership, he died in a plane crash just outside Moscow. The cause of the incident is still yet to be established.

Now, a document shared on a Telegram channel, which has not been independently verified, suggests Prigozhin had a will that was notarised on 2 March and bequeathed most of his inheritance to his son. According to The Times, it reads: “All my property . . . as well as property that may be acquired by me in the future I bequeath to Pavel Evgenyevich Prigozhin.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin accumulated vast wealth before going on to found the Kremlin-allied Wagner Group, which backed up Russia’s war in Ukraine

(AP)

Alongside the Wagner Group, Pavel is set to inherit around £100 million, a three-storey house in St Petersburg, nine joint stock companies and shares in Concord, and the catering empire, according to the document.

The 25-year-old, alongside his mother Lyubov and elder sister Polina, already “plays various roles in Prigozhin’s business enterprises” that benefit from “his favoured status within Russia’s elite”, the Financial Times reported the US said last year.

Among these is a Russian company Pavel has controlled called Lakhta Plaza, according to corporate filings. Lakhta Plaza was sanctioned by the US in March 2022 and has shared an auditor and telephone number with other Russian companies that the US and EU for being fronts for Wagner. Polina was made a shareholder in the company in 2019.

Pavel’s artist grandmother Violetta, who is in her 80s, has also been sanctioned by the West. The UK, EU and Canada placed her under sanctions for supporting Wagner. However, she managed to convince an EU court earlier this year that she was not financially linked to her son and the restrictions were lifted.

Meanwhile, Polina and Pavel’s younger sister Veronika are both keen equestrians. The pair competed outside Russia in hundreds of events over the past decade, according to records compiled by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI). Their horses had names like Happy Feet, Brunetti and Zitana, while the competitions were in places such as Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and Spain.

Violetta opened her own art gallery, Colours of Life, in 2018. It includes a work titled ‘Palmyra in 2022’ in its collection. Palmyra’s antiquities were destroyed by Isis before the ancient Syrian desert city was taken over by Russian forces. Her son Prigozhin’s Wagner fighters were among the troops, and the city became one of its primary foreign bases.

Pavel has fought with Wagner in Syria, according to his father’s social media posts, and was awarded the group’s “black cross”, which is its own recognition for military service.

There are hopes among loyalists that Pavel will continue the legacy of his father if he takes command of the mercenary group, according to a New York Times investigation this month.

The 25-year-old already controls multiple companies and luxury real estate complexes in St Petersburg, according to the US Treasury in March. He has also been sanctioned by a number of countries, including Canada, the US and the UK.

If Pavel dies, the inheritance is due to go to Prigozhin’s widow, Lyubov, Pavel’s two sisters and the Wagner chief’s grandson, according to the document – with the paper indicating that the grandson is Pavel’s child, although this has not been independently verified. In the meantime, Pavel is said to have to provide for the family, including Violetta, under the terms of the will.

Dozens of mourners on Sunday hailed the mutinous mercenary chief Prigozhin as a patriotic hero of Russia who had spoken truth to power

(Reuters)

Pavel reportedly said last month that he accepted the will and its “parameters” – although the Russian security services-linked Telegram channel VChK-OGPU has suggested it is already being contested amid a conflict that has erupted within the family.

On Sunday, Pavel and Violetta laid flowers at Prigozhin’s grave in the former imperial capital of St Petersburg together. The pair were among dozens of mourners hailing the mutinous mercenary chief as a patriotic hero of Russia who had spoken truth to power. Supporters waved the black flags of Wagner which sport a skull and the motto “Blood, Honour, Motherland, Courage”.

The Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has suggested Prigozhin’s wealth could come to as much as two trillion roubles, although his official wealth has been estimated at 14.6 billion.

Despite years of Western sanctions, a Financial Times investigation found Prigozhin generated revenues of more than a quarter of a billion dollars from his global natural resources empire in the four years before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Since its formation, Wagner has been accused of committing human rights abuses in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mali, Mozambique and most recently Ukraine.

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