Interviews with more than a dozen current and former officials in Washington, Europe, Africa and Russia — as well as four Russians who worked for Mr. Prigozhin — portray a tug of war over his assets among major players in Russia’s power structure, including two different intelligence agencies. Many of those interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity, to discuss sensitive diplomatic and intelligence issues.
The fight is complicated, these people said, by the lingering allegiance to Mr. Prigozhin in his private army, where some are bridling at being subsumed within Russia’s defense ministry and instead backing a transfer of power to Mr. Prigozhin’s son.
“Wagner is not just about the money — it’s a kind of religion,” said Maksim Shugalei, a political consultant for Mr. Prigozhin, adding that he was proud to be part of the mercenary force. “It’s unlikely that this structure will totally disappear. For me, this is impossible.”
Valerie Hopkins, Elian Peltier, Paul Sonne, Ekaterina Bodyagina, Alina Lobzina, Oleg Matsnev and Raja Abdulrahim contributed reporting.