Former editor at Russian state news agency says she was forced to resign after her investigative report linked contaminated school lunches to ‘Putin's chef’
Journalist Darya Burlakova says she completed an investigative report for TASS about food services in Moscow’s public schools and kindergartens, but the Russian state news agency refused to publish the text because it mentioned Evgeny Prigozhin and his catering company “Concord.”
The independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta later agreed to publish Burlakova’s report, but her supervisors at TASS told her she would need to resign, she says, if her name appeared in the byline. “When I refused to deal in ultimatums and asked not to be bothered with further unlawful job requirements, I was soon invited in an altogether different tone to terminate our cooperation voluntarily on terms that suited me,” Burlakova explained in a blog post published on Ekho Moskvy’s website, adding that she stepped down as an editor at TASS in January 2019.
In the report published by Novaya Gazeta on February 8, Burlakova describes how Prigozhin’s firms got into the business of catering Moscow’s public schools and kindergartens. Students’ parents have criticized the meals provided by Prigozhin’s companies, calling it “inflight food” that’s prepared remotely and reheated at the schools. Parents also say there is a lack of alternatives for students with food allergies and lactose intolerance.
A source also told Novaya Gazeta that Prigozhin’s catering empire provided food services at campaign events in March 2018 for Vladimir Putin’s re-election effort, and at a shopping center in Red Square during the New Year’s holidays.
In December 2018, nearly 130 children at seven kindergartens in Moscow’s South-Eastern Administrative District contracted dysentery. Russia’s Agency for Health and Consumer Rights tracked the infection to contaminated cottage cheese supplied from the Lipetsk region. Concord’s spokespeople confirm that the dairy supplier in question has worked with Evgeny Prigozhin’s company in the past, but Concord says it no longer does business with this particular enterprise.
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