A Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin has admitted to interfering in US elections – the first such admission from a figure who has been formally implicated by Washington in efforts to thwart American politics.
Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin made the remarks Monday, openly admitting to tampering in previous elections in comments posted by the press service of his Concord catering firm on Russia’s Facebook equivalent VKontakte.
The comments saw Prigozhin, an elusive oligarch long linked to an election-meddling troll farm, assert that he would continue such meddling in future – a day before Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Officially, Prigozhin’s Concord catering company is a favorite of the Kremlin and even Putin himself.
Unofficially, the caterer, who has been dubbed ‘Putin’s chef,’ also oversees a group of cutthroat mercenaries that do Moscow’s dirty work.
Monday’s profession from Prigozhin came as the second incriminating admission in a matter of months for the oligarch, who in September admitted for the first time that he is the founder of Wagner – the aforementioned band of contract killers.
Prigozhin, whose estimated illegal net worth is at least $1billion, has now openly admitted his role in hindering American elections, after being sought out by the US government since September for doing so.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a billionaire Russian caterer with close ties to Vladimir Putin has admitted to interfering in US elections – the first such admission from a figure who has been formally implicated by Washington in efforts to thwart American politics.
‘We have interfered (in U.S. elections), we are interfering and we will continue to interfere,’ Prigozhin, 61, wrote in response to a request for comment from a Russian news site.
‘Carefully, accurately, surgically and in our own way,’ the cook continued, as we know how to do.’
The remark was posted on the eve of the US midterm elections – an apparent act of defiance after the Biden Administration put him on the FBI’s most wanted list in September election meddling.
Prigozhin has long been charged by officials with spearheading of a misinformation campaign during the 2016 US presidential election – allegations he seemingly flaunted in a series of cryptic, and arguably violent comments.
‘During our pinpoint operations, we will remove both kidneys and the liver at once,’ wrote Prigozhin, who founded Concord catering in 1990.
He did not elaborate on the cryptic comment.
Prigozhin, who is often referred to as ‘Putin’s chef’ because his catering company almost exclusively operates Kremlin contracts, has been formally accused of sponsoring Russia-based ‘troll farms’ that seek to influence US politics.
Aside from helping to operate those farms, the extent of Prigozhin’s interference efforts are still unclear.
The comments saw the caterer (at left), who is accused of spearheading a misinformation campaign during the 2016 US election, assert that he would continue such meddling in future. Prigozhin’s catering company is a favorite of the Kremlin and even Putin himself
The billionaire cook had been linked to a Kremlin campaign to influence the 2016 election in particular, between former President Donald Trump and ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In July, the U.S. State Department offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on Prigozhin in connection with ‘engagement in U.S. election interference’.
He and his company have also been hit an array by US, British and European Union sanctions. Since the invasion of Ukraine, his entire immediate family has joined him on that sanctions list.
In July, the U.S. State Department offered a reward of up to $10million for information on Prigozhin in connection with ‘engagement in US election interference’ for his part in electoral interference efforts
Prigozhin kept a low public profile until recently – but has become increasingly outspoken over the course of the Ukraine war, including by criticizing the poor performance of Russia’s generals.
In September, he admitted to founding the Kremlin-aligned Wagner mercenary group, after years of denying any associations with the mysterious band, which is active in Syria, Africa, and Ukraine.
The group, which has played a crucial part in the Russian war effort, is fiercely loyal to Putin and has often been labeled his ‘shadow army.’
Prigozhin said he recruited a ‘group of patriots’ to support Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine.
‘I cleaned the old weapons myself, sorted out the bulletproof vests myself,’ Prigozhin wrote in the September statement that revealed the origins the fighting force, which was founded in 2014, shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The comments also saw Prigozhin, an elusive oligarch long linked to an election-meddling troll farm, assert that he would continue such meddling in future – a day before Tuesday’s midterm elections
The statement saw Prigozhin hail the more than 8,000 private soldiers who now comprise the makeshift militia as ‘heroes’.
His admission came after a video, circulated on September 13th, appeared to show him recruiting convicts into the group, in an effort to boost Russia’s dwindling manpower in Ukraine.
In the clip, Prigozhin promised the imprisoned recruits freedom if they manage to survive six months on the battlefield.
Last Friday, in a move that saw Prigozhin highlight his military credentials, Wagner opened a defense technology center in St Petersburg, as Putin struggles to deal with the outflow public criticism for the poor performance of troops fighting in Ukraine.
Russia is now into the ninth month of a war in Ukraine that Putin believed would be over within days, has seen his powerful military mauled by a smaller adversary, and has almost no hope of achieving any of his pre-war aims.
Prigozhin kept a low public profile until recently – but has become increasingly outspoken over the course of the Ukraine war, including criticizing the poor performance of Russia’s generals
Last month, Prigozhin, along with Chechen boss Ramzan Kadyrov, openly declared war’ on Defence Minister and staunch Putin loyalist Sergei Shoigu, after a series of embarrassing defeats for the Kremlin in Ukraine.
Kadyrov and Prigozhin turned on the minister amid heavy defeats and losses in recent weeks, after Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian regions including Donetsk and Luhansk in an announcement to which he gathered all of the country’s top leaders and told the world the regions would ‘remain with Russia forever.’
Just 24 hours later, there was clear evidence Ukraine was making major gains in the regions, recapturing land that Putin had just claimed as part of Russia.
Ramzan Kadyrov (left), Chechen warlord, and Yevgeny Prigozhin (right), the Wagner Group founder, have been leading public criticism of Russia’s generals
The gains in the south and east of Ukraine continued and triggered the two army leaders to take up a call to arms against the Minister, who is an easy target to blame for Russia’s poor military results.
The Kremlin is turning to increasingly desperate measures in order to save face and try and halt the Ukrainian advance, including recruiting prisoners straight out of jail and, now, open infighting.
Meanwhile, in the US, midterms are just hours away, set to kick off Tuesday morning. The election comes as particularly important, as both the Democratic and Republican parties grapple for influence in crucial swing states across the country.