Yevgeny Prigozhin, caterer turned warlord presumed dead had Jewish ancestry

The former leader of the Wagner group did not publicise his faith


Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin shows Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin his school lunch factory outside Saint Petersburg on September 20, 2010. - Kremlin-linked businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin has filed a lawsuit in an EU court to remove him from the bloc's sanctions list, his company said on December 15, 2020. The European Union in October sanctioned Prigozhin -- nicknamed "Putin's chef" because his company Concord has catered for the Kremlin -- accusing him of undermining peace in Libya by supporting the Wagner Group private military company. (Photo by Alexey DRUZHININ / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by ALEXEY DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the caterer turned leader of one of the world's deadliest mercenary groups, presumed dead in a plane crash, is believed to have Jewish ancestry.

Prigozhin, a former ally of Vladimir Putin who first met the Russian leader in 1990s Moscow, is believed to have been on board a private jet that crashed in the Russian countryside yesterday afternoon.

U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters yesterday that he wasn’t surprised. Asked if Putin was behind the crash, Biden said “there’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not behind, but I don’t know enough to know the answer.”

According to the Kyiv Post, both Prigozhin's stepfather and father were of Jewish descent, and he faced antisemitic abuse from many including Igor Girkin, a Russian-linked military commander in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

In a video posted by Girkin, he said:“Who is Prigozhin? Is he Russian? He is not a Russian person. He isn’t even a Russian by nationality.”

Earlier this year, Prigozhin's Wagner group marched on Moscow after he had public disagreements with Russian military leaders over the direction of the war.

Dissatisfied with the direction the war had gone in June, Prigozhin dispatched troops towards Moscow. He claimed Russian forces had attacked his men. “We will destroy anyone who stands in our way,” he threatened in audio and video that he posted. The next day, Putin accused his former ally on Russian television of “a stab in the back of our country and our people.” Within hours, Prigozhin called off the march to Moscow.

Prigozhin has been on the move ever since—first in Belarus and then in undisclosed locations, including in Africa. He is of Jewish descent on his father’s and his stepfather’s sides.

Some say that the Wagner Group has pro-Nazi origins, including perhaps being named after Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer Richard Wagner.

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