Yevgeny Prigozhin, Putin’s ally, boasts that he ‘interfered’ in the US elections

Yevgeny Prigozhin, Putin’s ally, boasts that he ‘interfered’ in the US elections


Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin and head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which is fighting in Ukraine, boasted on Monday that he is meddling in the midterm elections for the United States Congress and plans to continue doing so.

Prigozhin gained notoriety as an operator of Internet “troll farms” and was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for his role in meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, using a company he owned, then called the Internet Research Agency, to spread disinformation and discord, especially on social media platforms.

When asked by the Russian media about the new interference in the mid-term elections, Prigozhin replied: “Gentlemen, we interfered.” We mix and we will mix. Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do.”

His comments were published by his press service on the Russian social media platform VKontakte.

“During our precise operations, we will remove both kidneys and the liver at once,” Prigozhin said.

Prighozin’s provocative remarks, the day before election day in the United States, were impossible to verify. US government cyber agencies say they have largely neutralized Russian troll farms in subsequent election cycles.

Major social media platforms have also become far more vigilant about policing questionable content, although recent major layoffs at Elon Musk’s Twitter staff have raised questions about whether the company could properly monitor content ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Whether Prigozhin’s remarks were true or just disinformation intended to cause alarm in the United States, they nonetheless reflected how Putin and his supporters view Russia as waging a multi-front war against a US-dominated, supposedly hegemonic West. Putin and his allies said Russia was fighting the US and other NATO countries in Ukraine and blamed the West for prolonging the war Putin started.

Russia has also used disinformation, its power in energy markets and its control over Ukrainian food exports to try to break Western unity around support for Ukraine. A key Kremlin goal includes weakening Western democracies by promoting far-right candidates, targeting centrists and spreading divisive rhetoric online.

Influencing the overall outcome of a midterm congressional election, with hundreds of candidates on ballots in all 50 states, is more complex than a presidential race. But individual congressional races, in small districts or individual states, can be prone to outside interference.

Ministry of Finance imposed sanctions against Prigogine in March 2018 for his role in interfering in the 2016 elections and again in 2019 for meddling in the 2018 congressional elections. In each case, the department cited his role in funding the Internet Research Agency troll farm in St. Petersburg.

Great Britain and the European Union also imposed sanctions against Prigogine.

The oligarch, who made his fortune through Russian government catering contracts including kindergartens, schools and the military, is known as “Putin’s chef”.

He also runs the FAN news agency, which promotes his agenda, including attacks on his political enemies and praise for his own projects, such as his push into Africa in recent years, offering security services and advice on political manipulation to the continent’s autocrats in exchange for access to resources. .

After years of denying any connection to Wagner’s mercenaries, Prigozhin has in recent months openly acknowledged his connection with the private militia, even personally recruiting fighters in Russian prisons, despite the fact that mercenary groups are illegal under Russian law.

Wagner’s mercenaries have been unsuccessfully trying to push back Ukrainian forces for months BakhmutUkraine, a battle that has taken a heavy toll on both sides and left the city in ruins, although Western military analysts say there is no strategic military logic to the effort to capture the city.

Bloomberg News reported that social media analysis firm Graphika found that a Russian political interference network linked to the Internet Research Agency was engaged in new political meddling, promoting right-wing conspiracy theories aimed at swinging midterm election races against Democratic candidates.

The most recent United States sanctions against Prigozhin came in July, in connection with Prigozhin’s “Lakhta Project,” a disinformation campaign he financed targeting audiences in the United States, Europe and Ukraine. According to the Ministry of Finance, the Lakhta project spends tens of millions of dollars to finance troll farms “and other mechanisms of malign influence”.

“Since at least 2014, Project Lakhta has used, among other things, fictitious online personas impersonating US persons in an attempt to interfere in US elections,” according to to the Ministry of Finance.

Graphics registered that the Russian network made “direct attempts to undermine support for Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New York and Ohio,” from August and September. The main vehicle was the publication of political cartoons, “almost certainly intended to go viral”.

“The network consists of a variety of impersonations on alt-tech platforms popular with far-right online audiences in the US, including Gab, Parler, Gettr, and a discussion forum patriots.win. These figures routinely spread inflammatory stories about sensitive cultural and political issues in the US, including vaccines, gun control, racial injustice and allegations of child sexual abuse. Actors are consistently critical of the Biden-Harris administration,” Graphica reported.

People online also shared articles from right-wing media outlets and screenshots of social media posts accompanied by inflammatory political commentary, the report said.

According to the report, Internet trolls from the Internet Research Agency targeted Democratic candidates — including Sen. Raphael G. Warnock and gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams in Georgia, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Senate candidate John Fetterman in Pennsylvania and Senate candidate Tim Ryan in Ohio — with racist or inflammatory material.

In a new development, the reports also weighed in on Russia’s war against Ukraine, promoting the Kremlin’s false narrative that Ukraine is a Nazi state, and suggesting that the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine has hurt the American standard of living.

However, Graphika reported that the latest campaign achieved minimal online traction.

Prigozhin’s political currency rose in the Kremlin because of his role in the war, not only sending Wagner into battle, but also establishing people’s defense groups in Russian territory near the Ukrainian border.

At the same time, Prigozhin emerged as one of the loudest critics of the Russian army due to its failures and retreat in Ukraine. He recently vented angry with Putin over the subject, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The exchange was included in the daily intelligence briefing provided to President Biden. Prigozhin denied that he had spoken with Putin.

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