Russian Prigozhin first admits connection to Wagner’s mercenaries



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LONDON, Sept 26 (Reuters) – Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Monday he founded the private military company Wagner Group in 2014, the first public confirmation of a link he had previously denied and continued in court against journalists for reporting.

The Wagner Group, made up of veterans of the Russian armed forces, fought in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic and Mali, among other countries.

The press service of Prigozhin’s Concord catering company published its comments on the VKontakte social network in response to a request for comment from a Russian news site on why it stopped denying its links with Wagner .

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“I cleaned old weapons myself, sorted out body armor myself and found specialists who could help me. From that moment, May 1, 2014, a group of patriots was born, which later called the Wagner Battalion,” Prigozhin said.

“I am proud to have been able to defend their right to protect the interests of their country,” he said in the statement.

Prigozhin’s Concord catering company confirmed to Reuters that the statement was genuine.

Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s boss” because of his company’s catering contracts in the Kremlin, has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for his role in Wagner.

They also accuse him of funding a troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency which Washington claims tried to influence the US election.

Prigozhin has previously sued news outlets, including investigative website Bellingcat, Russian news site Meduza and now-closed Moscow radio station Echo, for reporting his links to Wagner.

Wagner was founded in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and began providing support to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region.

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Reuters reporting; edited by Guy Faulconbridge and Gareth Jones

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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