The Tangled, Mercenary Network of ‘Putin’s Chef’ Is Starting to Unravel

The Tangled, Mercenary Network of ‘Putin’s Chef’ Is Starting to Unravel
Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin at the Konstantin palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Aug. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Three years ago, Yevgeny Prigozhin barely registered a blip on Google trends in English or Russian. Today, the Kremlin-connected businessman better known as “Putin’s chef” is persona non grata in many places around the world, including the United States, where the Treasury Department leveled another round of sanctions against Prigozhin this week for his role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Although Prigozhin’s close ties to President Vladimir Putin have long been known to Russian observers, stretching back to their younger days in St. Petersburg in the 1990s, the Kremlin insider was virtually unknown in the United States until recently. Now, Prigozhin ranks as one of the most visible targets of the U.S. response to Russian election interference. The private jets and yachts that Prigozhin has used to shuttle from one warzone business deal to the next are now effectively barred from landing in any port that trades with the United States.

Soon after Treasury officials announced the sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will continue to try to box Prigozhin in and monitor the activities of the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg troll farm that Prigozhin, according to a 2018 U.S. indictment, helped finance to wage “information warfare against the United States,” specifically against Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The Mueller Report laid out the “active measures” of the Internet Research Agency in painstaking detail, exposing Prigozhin’s role in funding its disinformation campaign through a company he controlled, Concord Management and Consulting.

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