Opinion

[OPINION] Putin’s Cook and other indictments

Vitaliy Portnikov is a Ukrainian editor and journalist. Born in Kyiv in 1967. Since 1989, he works as the analyst of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specializing in post-Soviet countries, and cooperates with the Russian and Ukrainian services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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“Cook of spicy dishes” was how the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin once characterized his successor Joseph Stalin. An experienced publicist, Lenin came up with an accurate image. But 100 years later, this image has changed from being a comparison to reality. The person whom the US is accusing, among others, of organizing the interference in American elections is known to the media as “Putin’s cook” and friend. This is Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur from St. Petersburg. But Prigozhin deals not only in restaurants. He is the person behind the  “troll factory” in St. Petersburg and the large-scale campaign of disinformation. He is the one considered to be one of the main sponsors of the Wagner (Russia’s shadowy mercenary organization active in Syria and the Donbas — Ed.) military campaign and the friend of its leader Dmitry Utkin. Incidentally, the director of Prigozhin’s main company is called Dmitry Utkin. Could it be the same one? Wagner? Prigozhin does not admit it and even claims not to know anything about this paramilitary company. Indeed, Prigozhin is definitely a very complicated person.

His biography is also very complicated. At the age of 20 he received a 12-year prison terms for “robbery” “fraud,” and ” involving minors in prostitution.” Simply put, Prigozhin’s group found minor girls, turned them to prostitution and then robbed their clients. A person with such qualities could not fail in the new Russia.

Locked up in Russia

Prigozhin’s restaurants became a meeting place for the Russian elite. This is where Vladimir Putin celebrated and where he met with colleagues and heads of states, including –what irony of fate — US President George W. Bush. But Prigozhin’s business activity is not limited to restaurants. He was involved in media — and not only with the “troll factory” in Olgino, but also the Federal News Agency — another Russian propaganda resource that is known for its anti-Ukrainian rhetoric even when compared to other Russian media. Incidentally, three companies mentioned in the US indictment are Prigozhin’s firms, including the ” troll factory.” The “cook of spicy dishes” had prepared a disgusting menu for Americans.

But they were not the first to be poisoned by Prigozhin. For several years schools in the Leningrad region refused food services from his companies. There was a scandal with the mass poisoning of 150 cadets of the Ural Fire Protection Institute of the Emergency Ministry of Russia. Prigozhin probably had one set of meals for cadets and another for presidents. Nothing happened even when his security guard attacked an FSB employee (The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, successor to the KGB–Ed.) (yes, it is true!) during a raid to combat the illegal use of “flashing lights.”  The security guard was given a conditional sentence. Now let us just imagine if he had been the guard of some other person.

However, American investigators do not resemble their Russian counterparts. Prigozhin and his assistants are now locked up in Russia, as in a prison cell. Their security is guaranteed only during the reign of the Putin regime (and then only conditionally). Prigozhin may argue and claim that he is not worried by American indictments. But the charges are very serious and are quite comparable to the corruption of  the early years of Prigozhin’s youth.

VITALIY PORTNIKOV Vitaliy Portnikov is a Ukrainian editor and journalist. Born in Kyiv in 1967. Since 1989, he works as the analyst of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specializing in post-Soviet countries, and cooperates with the Russian and Ukrainian services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Article by: Vitaly Portnikov

Translated by: Anna Mostovych

Source: Radio Svoboda

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