Yevgeny Prigozhin

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Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin (Russian: Евгений Викторович Пригожин; born June 1, 1961) is a Russian businessman[1] with ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.[2] Prigozhin was called "Putin’s chef" in an Associated Press article because of Prigozhin's restaurants and catering businesses that hosted dinners which Vladimir Putin attended with foreign dignitaries.[3] Prigozhin controls "a network of companies," including three accused of interference in the 2016 United States elections.[4] Prigozhin, his companies and associates face economic sanctions and criminal charges in the United States.

Early life[edit]

Prigozhin was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) on June 1, 1961 to Violetta Prigozhina (Russian: Виолетта Пригожина).[5][6] He graduated from an athletics boarding school in 1977 and was engaged in cross-country skiing.[5]

On November 29, 1979, Prigozhin was given a suspended sentence for stealing (in Leningrad). In 1981 he was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment under articles of robbery, fraud, and involving teenagers in prostitution. Prigozhin spent nine years in prison before he was released.[7]

Restaurant and catering career[edit]

In 1990, after his release, he and his stepfather set up a network to sell hot dogs.[8] Soon, according a New York Times interview with him, "the rubles were piling up faster than his mother could count them."[9] He also became a 15% stakeholder and manager of a "Contrast," started by Boris Spektr, a classmate from his boarding school, which was the first grocery store chain in Saint Petersburg. In 1995, when revenues began to fall, Prigozhin persuaded a director at Contrast, Kiril Ziminov, to open a restaurant with him. The two men opened the "Old Customs House" (Russian: Старая Таможня) in Saint Petersburg. In 1997, inspired by waterfront restaurants on the Seine in Paris, Prigozhin and Ziminov spent $400,000 remodeling a rusting boat on the Vyatka River and started the floating restaurant called New Island, which became one of the most fashionable dining spots in Saint Petersburg.[8][9] He said his patrons "wanted to see something new in their lives and were tired of just eating cutlets with vodka." In 2001, Prigozhin personally served food to Vladimir Putin and French president Jacques Chirac when they dined at New Island." He also hosted US President George W. Bush in 2002. In 2003, Putin celebrated his birthday at New Island.[9] By 2003, Prigozhin had left his business partners, established his own independent restaurants, and had become a confidante of Putin, apparently free to engage in illicit activities without fear of prosecution.[10]

His company, Concord Catering, got hundreds of millions in government contracts for feeding school children and government workers.[10] In 2012 he got a contract to supply meals to the Russian military worth $1.2 billion dollars over one year. Some of the profits from this contract are alleged to have been used to start and fund Internet Research Agency.[citation needed]

In 2012 he moved his family into a St. Petersburg compound with a basketball court and a helicopter pad. He has a private jet and a 115-foot yacht.[10]

The Anti-Corruption Foundation accused Prigozhin of corrupt business practices. They estimated his illegal wealth to be worth more than one billion rubles.[11]

Wagner Group[edit]

Prigozhin has been linked to a mercenary group known as Wagner Group which has been involved in various actions as a private military contractor. On February 7, 2018 Wagner attacked US backed Kurdish forces in Syria in an attempt to take an oil field. Wagner and their allies suffered dozens of casualties when the US responded with airpower.[12]

The Washington Post reported Prigozhin was in close contact with Russian and Syrian military officials before the February 7 action.[13] The connections between Prigozhin and Wagner have been the subject of press coverage in Russia and the United States. Wagner is led by Dmitry Utkin, who was once head of security for Prigozhin. A person by the name of Dmitry Utkin was also listed as Director General of Prigozhin's Concord Management. Since 2011, Prigozhin's mother Violetta Prigozhin has been the owner of Concord.[6] Concord and Prigozhin denied any connection to Wagner,[1] however in November 2016 the company confirmed to Russian media that the same Dmitry Utkin leading Wagner Group was now in charge of Prigozhin's food businesses.[14] Wagner has also been reported to be fighting in eastern Ukraine with pro-Russia forces.[14]

On July 30, 2018, three Russian journalists working for a news organization often critical of the Russian government were murdered in the Central African Republic, where they had been attempting to investigate the activities of the Wagner Group in that country. The Russian government had begun a collaboration with the president of the Central African Republic in October, 2017. In its response to the killings, Russia's foreign ministry stressed that the dead journalists had been traveling without official accreditation.[15]

Internet Research Agency[edit]

Prigozhin has been connected to and is alleged to have financed and directed[16] a network of companies including a company called the Internet Research Agency Ltd., (Russian: ООО «Агентство интернет-исследований»)[17] Concord Management and Consulting Company and one other related company.[1] The three companies are accused of internet trolling and attempting to influence the 2016 US Presidential elections and other activity to influence political events outside Russia.

Russian journalist Andrey Soshnikov reported that Alexey Soskovets, who had participated in Russian youth political community, was directly connected to the offices of Internet Research in Olgino. His company, North-Western Service Agency, won 17 or 18 (according to different sources) contracts for organizing celebrations, forums and sport competitions for authorities of Saint Petersburg. The agency was the only participant in half of those bids. In the summer of 2013 the agency won a tender for providing freight services for participants of Seliger camp.[18]

Despite links to Alexei Soskovets, Nadejda Orlova, deputy head of the Committee for Youth Policy in Saint Petersburg, disputed connection between her institution and the trolling offices.[citation needed]

US Treasury Department sanctions[edit]

On December 20, 2016, the US Treasury Department designated Prigozhin pursuant to E.O.13661 for sanctions for providing support to senior officials of the Russian Federation.[19][20][21]

In June 2017 US sanctions were imposed on one of Prigozhin's companies, Concord Management and Consulting, in connection with the war in Eastern Ukraine.[14][22][23]

On January 28, 2018 the US Treasury Department also designated Evro Polis Ltd for sanctions. Evro Polis is a Russian company that has contracted with the Government of Syria to protect Syrian oil fields in exchange for a 25 percent share in oil and gas production from the fields. The company was designated for being owned or controlled by Yevgeniy Prigozhin. The sanctions require that any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked. Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons involving these persons (including companies) are generally prohibited.[24][25]

US criminal charges[edit]

On February 16, 2018, Prigozhin, the Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, another related company, and other connected Russian individuals were indicted by a U.S. grand jury. He was charged with funding and organizing operations for the purpose of interference with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the 2016 presidential election, and other crimes including identity theft.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "The oil field carnage that Moscow doesn't want to talk about". CNN.
  2. ^ "Navalny asks FSB to investigate Putin's cook". Crime Russia. Retrieved 2018-02-16.
  3. ^ "Thousands of Russian private contractors fighting in Syria". AP News. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  4. ^ Любовь (Love), Соболь (Sable); Золотухин (Zolotukhin), Валерий (Valery) (October 4, 2016). "Евгений Викторович Пригожин" [Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin Network of Companies]. PNG image from two FBK lawyers (in Russian). Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  5. ^ a b ? Ilya Zhegulyov, "The Right to Oblivion," Meduza.June 9, 2016 (in Russian)
  6. ^ a b Korotkov, Denis (January 12, 2016). "Imperija Prigozhina vzjala voennye gorodki" Империя Пригожина взяла военные городки [The Prigogine Empire took military towns]. Fontaka.ru (in Russian). Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  7. ^ "Право на забвение Евгения Пригожина: Что хочет скрыть о себе ресторатор, обслуживавший президентов России — Meduza". Meduza (in Russian). Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  8. ^ a b "Evgeny Prigozhin's right to be forgotten: What does Vladimir Putin's favorite chef want to hide from the Internet?". Meduza. Retrieved 2018-02-16.
  9. ^ a b c MacFarquhar, Neil (2018-02-16). "Meet Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian Oligarch Indicted in U.S. Election Interference". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-16.
  10. ^ a b c [1] Garrett M. Graff, "Inside the Mueller Agreement" Wired, February 20, 2018
  11. ^ "Он повар Путина. Он тролль Путина. Он миллиардер". сайт ФБК.
  12. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-europe-43167697
  13. ^ Nathan Hodge, Sebastian Shukla and Mary Ilushina, "Putin's 'Chef' Accused of Trying to Cover His Tracks," CNN, February 23, 2018
  14. ^ a b c "Media: Wagner Group commander becomes CEO of Putin's friend's catering business".
  15. ^ Higgins, Andrew; Nechepurenko, Ivan (August 7, 2018). "In Africa, Mystery Murders Put Spotlight on Kremlin's Reach". New York Times. New York. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  16. ^ Hodge, Nathan; Shukla, Sebastian; Ilyushinavia, Mary (February 23, 2018). "Putin's 'chef' accused of trying to cover his tracks". CNN. Archived from the original on June 20, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018 – via Internet Archive.
  17. ^ Andrew Soshnikov (2014-05-30). "Интернет-тролли из Ольгино заговорили на английском и украинском" [Internet trolls from Olgino start talking in English and Ukrainian]. Moy Rayon (in Russian). Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  18. ^ Andrew Soshnikov (2013-09-04). "Под Петербургом обнаружено логово троллей, которые клеймят Навального и хвалят русское кино" [Near St. Petersburg lies the lair of trolls that brand and praise Russian cinema]. Moy Rayon (in Russian). Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  19. ^ President of The United States (March 19, 2016). "Ukraine EO13661" (PDF). Federal Register. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  20. ^ "Russia/Ukraine-related Designations and Identifications; Publication of Russia/Ukraine-related General License". treasury.gov. 20 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Treasury Sanctions Individuals and Entities In Connection with Russia's Occupation of Crimea and the Conflict in Ukraine". U.S. Department of the Treasury. December 20, 2016.
  22. ^ "Russia/Ukraine-related Designations and Identifications". treasury.gov. 20 June 2017.
  23. ^ "Treasury Designates Individuals and Entities Involved in the Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine". U.S. Department of the Treasury. June 20, 2017.
  24. ^ "Russia/Ukraine-related Designations and Identifications". treasury.gov. 26 January 2018.
  25. ^ "Treasury Sanctions Additional Individuals and Entities in Connection with the Conflict in Ukraine and Russia's Occupation of Crimea". U.S. Department of the Treasury. January 26, 2018.
  26. ^ "Indictment document". Retrieved 16 February 2018.