After years spent operating in the shadows and denying his links to Wagner, Prigozhin acknowledged last September he had founded the organisation, which has also dispatched soldiers to fight in Syria and in conflicts across Africa.
In recent months he has emerged as one of the key Russian figures in the war in Ukraine, clashing publicly with the defence ministry and army generals over Russia’s faltering campaign strategy.
A former petty criminal turned confidant of President Vladimir Putin, Prigozhin has been recruiting convicts from Russian prisons to fight in Ukraine, promising them amnesty in exchange for a six-month stint at the frontline. Many have died in the war.
British defence chiefs said last week that up to 50,000 Russians could be fighting for Wagner in Ukraine alongside Russia’s official armed forces.
Wagner personnel have been accused of multiple human rights abuses both in Africa and Ukraine.
In Mali and the Central African Republic, rights groups and witnesses say Wagner fighters were responsible for atrocities including rape, mass executions, torture, child abduction and physical abuse.
An ex-Wagner commander previously fighting in Ukraine who fled to Norway said earlier this month he saw Wagner soldiers being shot in the back as they tried to flee.