Kremlin-linked entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted on Monday that he had interfered in US elections and will continue to do so – confirming for the first time allegations he has denied for years.
He said, ‘We have interfered, are interfering and will continue to interfere. Carefully, precisely, surgically and in his own way, ”said Prigozhin in a comment posted on social media.
The statement from his catering company’s press service, which nicknamed him “Putin’s chef,” came on the eve of the US midterm election in response to a request for comment.
It was the second major admission in recent months by the 61-year-old businessman who has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin has previously sought to keep his activities under the radar and now appears to be more interested in gaining political influence.
In September, he also publicly stated that he was behind the Wagner Group mercenary force – something he had previously denied – and spoke openly about his involvement in Russia’s 8-month-old war in Ukraine. The military contractor has also sent his troops to places like Syria and sub-Saharan Africa.
Recently a video has also surfaced in which a person like Prigozhin is visiting Russian penal colonies to recruit prisoners. To fight in Ukraine.
In 2018, Prigozhin and a dozen other Russian citizens and three Russian companies were accused of running a covert social media campaign aimed at inciting discord and dividing American public opinion ahead of the 2016 presidential election won by Republican Donald Trump in the US. was alleged. they were Charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference,
In 2020 the Justice Department asked to dismiss the charges against the two prosecuting firms, Concord Management & Consulting LLC and Concord Catering, concluding that the lawsuit against a corporate defendant with no presence in the U.S. and no warrant of meaningful punishment. Unlikely, even if found guilty, sensitive law enforcement tools and techniques are likely to be exposed.
In July, the State Department offered a reward of up to $10 million for information about Russian interference in US elections, including Prigozin and the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm in St. Petersburg, accused of funding their companies. was imposed.
Prigozhin had so far denied involvement in electoral interference.
Russian media, prisoner rights groups and prisoners’ relatives this year reported a widespread effort by Wagner and sometimes Prigozin personally to recruit criminals to fight in Ukraine. Prigozhin did not directly confirm this, but said in a statement that “either (Wagner’s private military company) and the criminals, or your children” would fight on the front lines.
Last week, Wagner opened a business center in St Petersburg, which Prigozhin describes as a platform to “enhance Russia’s defense capabilities”.
On Sunday, he also announced through the Concorde press service the creation of training centers for militias in Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk regions, which border Ukraine.
“A local resident, as no one else knows, knows his territories, is able to fight against sabotage and reconnaissance groups and take the first blow if necessary,” he said.
Once the owner of a hot dog stand, Prigozin opened a luxurious restaurant in St. Petersburg, which interested Putin. During his first term in office, Putin took the then French President Jacques Chirac to dine at a restaurant in Prigozhin.
“Vladimir Putin saw how I built a business out of a kiosk, he saw that I didn’t mind serving honored guests because they were my guests,” Prigozin recalled in an interview published in 2011.
His business expanded greatly. In 2010, Putin attended the opening of Prigozhin’s factory that produces school lunches, built on a generous loan from a state bank. In Moscow alone, his company Concorde won millions of dollars in exposure to providing food in public schools. Prigozhin has also organized catering for Kremlin events for many years and provided catering and utility services to the Russian military.
When fighting broke out between Russian-backed separatists and Kyiv forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Prigozin said that although his spokesman said he wanted to “put together a group (of fighters) who would go (there) and Will protect the Russians.”
Russian laws prohibit the operation of private military contractors, but state media have openly reported on Wagner’s involvement in Ukraine in recent months.