The Kremlin's cook has a private army 

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta has linked several murders to organizations owned by Yevgeny "Cook" Prigozhin, a businessman whose catering business provided food for the Kremlin, and who is known to be close to Vladimir Putin.

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
The Kremlin's cook has a private army  - NewsMavens
Yevgeny Prigozhin, YouTube

Why this story matters:

According to Novaya Gazeta, the stories told by Valery Amelchenko, a man who, until recently, worked for Yevgeny Prigozhin, reveal a series of crimes carried out on behalf of the Russian businessman and friend of Putin.

In 2016, the husband of Liubov Sobol, a lawyer working for Alexey Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, was taken to the hospital after a stranger pricked him with a syringe outside his own home. The doctors said that the drug -- something psychoactive -- was potentially lethal and that her husband was lucky to survive. What was the goal of the attack? To scare Sobol out of investigating Prigozhin's businesses.

As Novaya Gazeta discovered, it was not the first time that an unknown drug had been used to silence an internet personality.

Some months before, a local blogger was poisoned in Pskov, a city in the north of Russia. The man who carried it out, a St. Petersburg pharmacist, was found dead in his flat in May 2017. He was found lying in a bathtub, with an empty bottle of liquor next to him. Yet his friends and widow swear that he had never been a heavy drinker. 

After his last conversation with the Novaya Gazeta reporter early this October, Amelchenko disappeared. Later that night, a stranger called the journalist and said that he had just found Amelchenko's two mobile phones and a shoe lying on the ground.

After the interviews, Novaya Gazeta's journalists were able to confirm most of the stories Amelchenko told them- even if many sounded outlandish at first glance.

These are just some of the strange deaths and poisonings described in this investigation -- but they paint a picture of a ruthless, dangerous and seemingly invincible man (currently banned from the US), who gets away with organizing a private military company now active in Syria and the Central African Republic, and running his own internet troll armies, all while securing lucrative contracts with the Russian military.

Details from the story:

  • Amelchenko admitted to helping murder one of the "Luhansk People's Republic" leaders, and poison several Syrian "ISIS fighters" in 2014, on the orders of the private company "Wagner", also owned by Prigozhin.
  • Amelchenko's disappearance may be anything from an imitated kidnapping to murder.
  • Denis Korotkov, who wrote this article, was threatened at the end of last week, 4 days before it was published -- someone delivered a funeral wreath with his picture to the newspaper's office.
  • In response to this story, Prigozhin's troll army quickly spread the fake story that Mr Korotkov's investigation was helping ISIS terrorists on social media.
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