Who is Yevgeniy Prigozhin – the “leader of Putin” wanted by the FBI for election interference


New Delhi: Weeks after imposing sanctions on several Russian elites linked to Vladimir Putin, in response to his invasion of Ukraine, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Friday reiterated oligarch Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin as a wanted figure for alleged election interference.

“He allegedly conspired to defraud the United States by interfering with the functions of the Federal Election Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State. To visit http://tips.fbi.gov to submit a tip,” the FBI tweeted.

According to Daily Sabahthe investigative agency had first added Prigozhin to its ‘most wanted list’ in February 2021, citing his funding from the Internet Research Agency (a Russian body troll farm) and a previous federal arrest warrant issued in February 2018.

“He allegedly oversaw and approved their political and election interference operations in the United States, which included the purchase of American computer server space, the creation of hundreds of fictional characters online, and the use of stolen identities of people in the United States. These actions were allegedly taken to reach a significant number of Americans for the purpose of interfering with the political system of the United States, including the 2016 presidential election,” the FBI said. noted.

Prigozhin is one name among many in a broader series of allegations made by the United States for interference in the 2016 presidential election that resulted in Donald Trump’s victory. But the nature of Prigozhin’s apparent involvement and his ties to Putin are particularly significant.

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From hot-dog seller to “Poutine chef”

Born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in 1961, Prigozhin spent his youth in and out of prison for robbery, child prostitution and other organized crime.

But after his release in 1990, Prigozhin made his first foray into the nascent commercial food production industry of post-Soviet St. Petersburg.

According to the Latvian-based news agency Medouza, Prigozhin was a hot dog salesman before becoming the manager of the city’s “first chain” of grocery stores. By the late 1990s, Prigozhin had moved from the grocery store to the restaurant industry. He started a catering business with a business partner and two establishments serving the Russian elite.

The second settlement, which would have cost over $400,000 to remodel a decommissioned ship permanently moored on the Vyatka River, was particularly successful and also secured Prigozhin its big political break.

In 2000, the waterfront restaurant hosted Putin (who had just been elected Russian President for the first time) and then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori with Prigozhin”serving personally” their.

Over the next three years, Prigozhin’s restaurant would also have hosted French and American heads of state and was responsible for catering to many Kremlin events, including Putin’s birthday party. As a result, the term “Putin’s leader” was coined for Prigozhin.

Corruption, financing of mercenaries and disputes with Navalny’s NGO

With the income generated and powerful restaurant friends, Prigozhin spent the rest of the 2000s and 2010s securing lucrative restaurant deals and branching out into other businesses.

But allegations of corruption soon followed, including from activist Alexei Navalny’s NGO, known as FBK, which accused him of illegally amassing nearly a billion rubles in fortune. personal.

Prigozhin responded to these allegations with a trial claiming 88 million rubles in damages. In July 2020, following numerous court orders to pay Prigozhin and others who had sued FBK, Navalny announcement the dissolution of FBK.

Apart from corruption and electoral interference, Prigozhin allegedly funded the Wagner Groupa nebulous network of mercenary groups allegedly involved in various conflicts around the world, such as Syria, the Central African Republic and Ukraine.

Prigozhin has since responded to these allegations by deposit a defamation case against the founder of media company Bellingcat, who claims to have “discovered” Wagner’s activities since 2018.

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