Putin opens probe into rebel Wagner Group leader who got $2B in government funds.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said
he is opening a money probe into rebellious Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose businesses received $2 billion from the government in the past year.
While the Kremlin said Prigozhin would be pardoned and exiled over his weekend attempted coup, the Russian president said officials will now be scrutinizing not only Wagner’s finances but also his Concord catering company, which earned him the nickname “Putin’s chef.”
Speaking to Russian troops who faced off against Wagner over the weekend, Putin said Prigozhin’s mercenaries had been “fully financed” by the state, receiving about $1 billion from the Defense Ministry for their May 2022 to May 2023 budget.
Putin added that Prigozhin, an oligarch, secured about $1 billion in government contracts for his catering to provide food to the army, with the president suggesting that the businesses might have laundered some money.
“I do hope that, as part of this work, no one stole anything .. but we will, of course, investigate all of this,” Putin said, without directly naming Prigozhin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the Kremlin has opened an investigation into Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s finances after he led a rebellion against Moscow over the weekend. ZUMAPRESS.com
Despite extending pardons to the Wagner chief over his short-lived insurrection and offering Defense Ministry positions to his low-level troops, Putin’s recent remarks aimed at Prigozhin’s finances suggest the Prigozhin could still find himself in trouble with the law even after arriving in Belarus in exile on Tuesday.
Prigozhin has yet to remark on the money investigation, only breaking his silence Monday to claim that his coup attempt was actually just a protest while bragging about how seamlessly his troops made it within 120 miles of Moscow on Saturday.
The mercenary army —
a key force for Russia in its war on neighboring Ukraine — turned back after a deal brokered by Putin ally and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in which Prigozhin was granted immunity from criminal charges although exiled to Belarus.
“Yes, indeed, he is in Belarus today,” Lukashenko said of Prigozhin on Tuesday, according to Belta, the country’s national news agency, as reported by the Top News Planet.
Prigozhin is pictured showing off to Putin at his catering firm, Concord. AP
The Belarusian dictator said he is counting on the capitulating Wagner mercenaries to provide “priceless” information in the war on Ukraine.
“If their commanders come to us and help us … They will tell us about weapons: which worked well, and which did not. And tactics … how to attack, how to defend … This is what we can get from Wagner,” Lukashenko said.
Meanwhile, Putin’s comments came after he vowed Monday that Wagner’s leadership would face retaliation over the rebellion, which was emphasized across the world as Putin’s biggest threat to his hold on Russia in 23 years.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Top News Planet on Tuesday that the coup attempt was inevitable and would likely serve as a stepping stone for future challenges against Putin.
Concord’s office, in St. Petersburg, secured contracts totaling nearly $1 billion to feed Russian troops. AP
“For us, it has always been pretty obvious that it’s just a matter of time when someone in Russia will dare to challenge Putin because we saw how his power and authority is shrinking and how Russia is entering very difficult turbulence,” Kuleba said.
“So Prigozhin is just the first one who dared, but I have no doubt that others will follow one way or another.”
The Ukrainian official added that after a series of successful counter-attacks by Ukraine since the short-lived rebellion, it is clear Russia is losing in the war and can only fall back on threats of nuclear missiles.
“It’s obvious that his army is [incapable] of achieving its strategic purposes in Ukraine. He realizes that his power vertical has been shattered” Kuleba said.
“And so there’s only one last argument left in his pocket,” he added, referencing Russia’s nukes