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President Putin's invasion of Ukraine has profited from the Wagner Group's battlefield success, despite Russia's ban on private military corporations.

However, Prigozhin's expanding power threatens Putin.

In 1981, 20-year-old Prigozhin was caught stealing again and sentenced to 12 years in jail for robbery, serving nine years.

After his release, Prigozhin sold hot dogs in Leningrad before starting various other businesses.

In the 2000s, Prigozhin became close to Vladimir Putin and won many big government contracts.

As part of Russia's months-long push to conquer Ukraine's eastern Donetsk area, Wagner said on Tuesday it was fighting "heavy, bloody battles" for Soledar.

Bakhmut, the recent battleground, lies 15 kilometers from Soledar.