Top pick to become new Wagner boss revealed as Prigozhin loyalist dubbed ‘Lotus’ – and it could spell bad news for Putin | The Sun

YEVGENY Prigozhin's brutal Wagner Group could be taken over by one of his killer cronies after he was presumed dead in a fiery plane crash.

Rumoured to be next in line is Wagner commander Anton Yelizarov, 42, who has hailed the mercenary group as "knights" and appears to back the group against Vladimir Putin.

Expert Samantha de Bendern told The Sun Yelizarov's name has been floating around in various Telegram groups in the chaos after yesterday's plane crash as a potential new leader for the group.

She explained: "There's a new guy, Yelizarov who's the only surviving leader of Wagner."

Known by his call name "Lotus", Yelizarov is believed to have been involved in the group's movements in Belarus and commanded Wagner during the bloodiest battle of the war in Ukraine.

Yelizarov led the meat-grinder offensive in Soledar, which killed scores of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers during the five month battle – and was later anointed as the "conqueror of Soledar" by Prigozhin.


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Despite beginning his military career in the Russian Armed Forces, Yelizarov appears to have turned against Putin and dedicated himself to the mercenary group, which consists of some of Russia's most dangerous prisoners.

The Wagner figurehead is thought to have fierce loyalty to Prigozhin, rather than Putin.

In an interview with Wagner-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone earlier this year, Yelizarov spoke of his allegiance to the mercenary group.

He said: "PMC "Wagner" is not just a structure that unites people, it is an ideology.

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"Have you heard the story about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table? So, all the commanders of the Wagner PMC are knights, and our leader is the Director.

"We cannot be divided, all decisions are made jointly, at the council of commanders. Thus, a structure devoid of a corruption component has been created."

He's been photographed next to Prigozhin many times, and prior to his death, Prigozhin defended Yelizarov's comments about Russia's invasion into Crimea beginning in 2014.

Yelizarov is thought to have joined the group around 2016, after being convicted of fraud, according to Molfar, an information analyst company.

He took part in military actions in Syria, before working in the Central African Republic and commanding a unit in Libya – where illegal landmines were planted by Wagner troops.

"The Lotus" has also been widely sanctioned by Ukraine, France, the European Union, Japan, Belgium, New Zealand and Switzerland.

The Wagner commander is known to have a wife, Alexandra Yelizarova and a daughter, Arina Yelizarova.

It remains unclear who is to head Wagner following the plane crash yesterday, but de Bendern said one thing is clear.

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She explained: "I think we will see unrest in the next few days, that will be very interesting. The next few days will be interesting and reveal a lot.

"Right now, I have no idea of what could happen. But I do not think that things are going to be calm in Russia."

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