Vladimir Putin's 'Chef' Admits Russian Interference in US Midterms: Who Is He?
Yevgeny Prigozhin came to be known as Putin's 'chef' after he was awarded catering contracts by the Kremlin.
What Did Prigozhin Say?
The 61-year-old said on Telegram on Monday, 7 November, that Russia has interfered, is interfering and will continue to interfere in the US democratic process.
"I will answer you very subtly, and delicately and I apologise, I will allow a certain ambiguity. Gentlemen, we interfered, we interfere and we will interfere," he said in response to a journalist's question.
"Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how. During our pinpoint operations, we will remove both kidneys and the liver at once," the businessman further said.
However, the jury was out on whether he was serious when he made the comments, as some reports suggested that he made the statement sarcastically.
Nevertheless, this coming from an insider in Russia's topmost political circles gains immense significance.
It is also the first time someone from Moscow has admitted to meddling in the US' political system – an allegation which was propped up ahead of the 2016 and 2020 presidential polls.
Who Is Yevgeny Prigozhin?
While Prigozhin does not hold any official post in the Russian government, his close association with Putin earned him the tag of the president's "chef" after he started catering events for the Kremlin.
Over the years, he won lucrative catering contracts for the country's armed forces and schools, and by 2010, he became a Kremlin insider with a flourishing business empire.
What adds weight to his comments about the US midterms is that he has had an alleged history of "meddling," or of supporting it.
In the past, Prigozhin was sanctioned by the US for funding the Internet Research Agency – a Russia-backed company accused of interfering in several US elections, CNN reported.
In July, the US had also offered a reward of up to $10 million for information regarding Prigozhin's alleged involvement in meddling with US polls.
While Prigozhin had been a 'behind-the-scenes' man for years, he became the centre of media attention this year after he admitted to founding the Wagner Group – a private mercenary enterprise which has been charged with carrying out war crimes in Ukraine, Syria, and Africa.
Implications of Alleged Russian 'Meddling' In US Midterms
The US midterms (elections to all seats in the House of Representatives and a few seats in the Senate) will determine the direction of legislation in the US over the next two years, including the country's response to the Ukraine war.
Polls suggest that the Republicans are already poised to take control of both Houses, in a major blow to the Joe Biden government. This comes in the backdrop of falling approval ratings of the 79-year-old leader and the dismal state of the US economy.
If what Prigozhin said is true, and that Russia has actually meddled in the election (and been successful at it), in all probability the control of the US Congress will pass to the Republicans.
This would not only lead to the blocking of legislations by the Biden government on vital issues like guns, climate change, immigration, and abortion, but also reduction in monetary aid to Ukraine and reduced arms support to fend off Russian forces.
Former President Donald Trump, who is likely to announce his candidature for the 2024 presidential election on the GOP ticket next week, had in May slammed Biden for providing over $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.
A majority of Republicans who have rallied behind Trump have also followed suit, and demanded greater focus on domestic issues instead of the ongoing war. "Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine," one such Republican, Marjorie Taylor Greene, had said at a campaign rally last week.
(With inputs from CNN.)
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