Russian anti-corruption leader releases a report about unsanitary school catering in Moscow, but a fake image spoils the big reveal
Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) has published a new investigative report featuring an interview with a woman identified as Natalia Shilova, who says she used to work at a business called “Moscow Schoolboy.” In a video recording, she describes how the company supplies the city’s schools and kindergartens with low-quality food. According to the magazine RBC and anti-corruption researchers at the political party Yabloko, Moscow Schoolboy has ties to catering magnate and Putin ally Evgeny Prigozhin.
Shilova says she worked for the company from December 2016 to April 2017, and claims the business is part of the corporate structure of “Concord,” which Prigozhin owns. She told Navalny’s researchers that she deliberately took the job “to find out what they’re feeding our children.”
At Moscow Schoolboy, Shilova says she was responsible for monitoring the quality of food preparation at 25 catering facilities that served schools, kindergartens, and specialized secondary schools. She told FBK that the company falsified the veterinary certificates on its meats, which were the same low quality products used in dog food. The meats were apparently received without packaging and stored on a dirty floor.
Shilova’s video interview also features several photographs, including an image of a toilet that was supposedly used at one kitchen to store processed fruits and vegetables. As it turns out, however, the photograph in FBK’s report was taken no later than 2011.
Spokespeople for Concord wrote on social media that the company has never employed anyone named Natalia Shilova, urging reporters to reach out to Moscow Schoolboy for further information. According to a report by Federal News Agency (which investigative journalists say is the core outlet in Evgeny Prigozhin’s “media factory”), Moscow Schoolboy intends to sue FBK for defamation because of its interview with Shilova. Federal News Agency also published a video where Moscow Schoolboy acting director Nikolai Fateev takes a camera crew on a tour of the company’s warehouse and production floor.
Late on February 18, Natalia Shilova’s interview briefly disappeared from the Navalny LIVE YouTube channel. Administrators later republished the video, this time without the photograph of the toilet. According to FBK attorney Lyubov Sobol, Shilova says she received this image from “another employee at the company” in February 2017. The rest of the photos in FBK’s investigation, Sobol says, were taken by Shilova herself in 2017.
In January, FBK published an investigative report about a mass outbreak of dysentery at nine kindergartens in Moscow, all serviced by Evgeny Prigozhin’s companies. Russia’s consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor told the radio station Ekho Moskvy that there were 127 cases of “acute intestinal infections, including dysentery.” Afterwards, Concord invited Lyubov Sobol to visit its facilities and inspect the quality of its food in person. This visit never took place. On February 12, Concord announced that “two parents’ group representatives” inspected its production floor in the city of Lyubertsy, outside Moscow.