Wagner boss trying to 'seize control' of Russian political party

Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Yevgeny Prigozhin.   -  Copyright  AFP PHOTO / TELEGRAM CHANNEL OF CONCORD GROUP
By Joshua Askew

The leader of 'A Just Russia' party has called Wagner a "heroic military formation".

The head of Wagner is eyeing up political power, according to reports. 

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads the notorious mercenary force, is trying to gain control of a Russian political party, the independent news website Meduza reported on Monday. 

Citing "sources close to the Kremlin", it said Prigozhin was trying to seize control of the 'A Just Russia' party, whose leader Sergei Mironovrecently called Wagner a "heroic military formation".

Analysing the report, the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said rapprochement between the two figures "could trigger further factionalisation within the Kremlin". 

It has long been speculated by independent Russian outlets that Prigozhin - once Russian President Vladimir Putin's chef - may have political ambitions of his own. 

In March, the mercenary leader publically challenged Moscow's narrative that Russia is battling Nazis in Ukraine, which it has used to justify the invasion. 

Prigozhin is reportedly interested in the St. Petersburg branch of A Just Russia - widely regarded as one of the party's most valuable assets - and gaining a position at the federal level, according to Meduza. 

The party, which says it offers "New Socialism of the 21st Century", is pro-Kremlin and acts as pseudo opposition to Putin. 

However, Meduza's sources doubted that Prigozhin will be allowed to gain control over the parliamentary party as tensions towards the infamous man within the establishment grow. 

Prigozhin has emerged as a key player following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, with Wagner mercenaries playing an important role in the fighting, especially over the prized city of Bakhmut.

Recently stocked with conscripts, the private military company has openly contradicted and challenged the Russian Ministry of Defence on several occasions. 

The current leader of 'A Just Russia' Mironov is "likely attempting to revive his political influence and use Prigozhin as a patron for his political ambitions", said the ISW. 

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Prigozhin had been accused of interfering in US elections and expanding Russian influence in Africa. 

He was born in St Petersburg, like Putin, and has had repeated run-ins with the law. 

In 1979, he got his first criminal conviction - a suspended sentence - aged 18.

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