Yevgeny Prigozhin's Death Unravels Threads of His Past with Putin

In the aftermath of a tragic plane crash that claimed numerous lives, among the victims was Yevgeny Prigozhin, a name well-known within Russian elite circles

by Faruk Imamovic
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Yevgeny Prigozhin's Death Unravels Threads of His Past with Putin
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In the aftermath of a tragic plane crash that claimed numerous lives, among the victims was Yevgeny Prigozhin, a name well-known within Russian elite circles. Prigozhin's demise has, once more, brought to light his puzzling relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin's Grieving Acknowledgment

Russian President Vladimir Putin mournfully addressed the nation on Thursday, extending his heartfelt condolences to the grieving families. While expressing his sympathy during a televised discussion with the Moscow-installed chief of Donetsk region, he remarked, "It's always a tragedy." Putin's specific tribute to Prigozhin stood out.

Describing him as a "talented businessman", Putin reflected on their history, claiming, "I had known Prigozhin for a very long time, since the start of the 90s. He was a man with a difficult fate, and he made serious mistakes in life." In a supportive echo, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, known to be among Putin's staunchest allies, declared Prigozhin a dear friend.

He even mentioned persuading the business magnate "to set aside his personal ambitions".

Contradictions and Murmurs from the Past

However, the Russian media portal, Meduza, challenges Putin's narrative, citing discrepancies in their publicized acquaintanceship.

According to the portal, contrary to Putin's claim of a friendship dating back to the 1990s, they only got acquainted in the 2000s. The scene of their supposed first meeting? A St. Petersburg restaurant owned by Prigozhin. It was here, Meduza claims, that Prigozhin famously played the role of waiter during state meetings between Putin and global leaders like Jacques Chirac and George W.

Bush Jr. Moreover, in a twist, Prigozhin, in a 2023 interview, appeared to downplay these claims of a longstanding camaraderie with Putin. He brushed off rumors of their relationship as "very, very exaggerated," stating he only became acquainted with Putin after the latter's presidential ascendancy.

Although he conceded Putin might have frequented his restaurants during his deputy mayor days. To further muddle the waters, investigative journalist Andrey Zakharov unearthed an older version of their history, suggesting they first crossed paths in the early 1990s, in the backdrop of a casino.

Speculations abound that Prigozhin was in the employment of casino mogul Mikhail Mirilashvili, while Putin was overseeing casino licensing.

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