Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner private-mercenary group.
REUTERS/Yulia Morozova/File Photo
Yevgeny Prigozhin flew across African trying to salvage contracts there, the WSJ reported.
But his mission came to an abrupt end when his plane crashed over Russia on Wednesday.
Per the WSJ’s investigation, Prigozhin was racing to stop the Kremlin dismantling his empire.
Yevgeny Prigozhin spent his final days crisscrossing Africa in a frantic attempt to protect his global business empire from Kremlin plans to take it over, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said it reconstructed his movements from interviewing government and military officials, defectors from his Wagner Group, and from evidence like chat logs and flight data.
Prigozhin died Wednesday when a private jet carrying him and others crashed in the Russian countryside on its way to St. Petersburg.
On Friday, the Kremlin denied that it ordered Prigozhin’s death, despite widespread assessments from experts and intelligence agencies that it was indeed an assassination.
Per the WSJ’s account, the plane crash cut short an effort by Prigozhin to maintain his sprawling network of mercenary deals. On his last foreign trip last week, The Journal said he visited two African countries to shore up support from foreign allies there.
The report said he was in the Central African Republic last Friday, where he met officials in that country and also rebels fighting in neighboring Sudan.
The next day, it said, he moved on to Mali, another state where Wagner has interests.
The Journal said that Prigozhin found himself in a race with the Kremlin, which was at the same time trying to win over Wagner clients to have them deal directly with Russian officials instead.
The respected Institute for the Study of War reported, citing Russian military bloggers, that the Kremlin was doing its best to dismantle Wagner’s presence in the Middle East and Africa, by forming new private military companies from existing Wagner personnel.
The Wagner boss established one of the world’s most mysterious and complicated corporate organization, which included enterprises in media, logistics, mining, cinema, and catering in addition to his mercenary activities, according to an investigation by the Dossier Center.
Per The Journal, other sources of income for Prigozhin include gold from Sudan, and diamond and timber from the Central African Republic. It remains unclear what is going to happen to the sprawling network now that its leader is no more.