By Nina Bachkatov
For almost 10 years, the existence of the group, and the name of its leader, were an open secret, in Russia and abroad. As late as October 2022, president Putin, foreign minister Lavrov and defence minister Shoigu were denying the existence of private military companies in their country. Then, in early November, out of the blue, Yevgeni Prigozhin threw his Wagner group in full light, unleashing a stream of comments and the publication of well-timed books. The move was so astonishing that many Russians, who had seen the film in which Prigozhin was seen recruiting prisoners in a prison courtyard, believed it was a fake. Even in distant villages, people knew names such as Wagner or Prigozhin, but thought it was not their business unless a member of the family had been enrolled.
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