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A former ‘Putin’s chef’ employee reported on sanitation violations in school lunches. Now, she says anti-corruption activists forced her to lie.

Meduza

Natalya Shilova, who formerly worked for a company called Moskovsky Shkolnik that provides lunches for Moscow schools, appeared several weeks ago in an investigative video report by the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). In the video, Shilova spoke about sanitary violations committed by her former employer, which is allegedly tied to the Putin-allied businessman Evgeny Prigozhin. On April 2, she retracted the evidence she gave in a new video published on YouTube by the Federal News Agency, a media outlet that also has reported ties to Prigozhin and his “troll factory” in St. Petersburg. In her latest video, Shilova said she had agreed to speak with the FBK and its founder, opposition politician Alexey Navalny, in exchange for money that would allow her to pay health care costs for her child. She also asserted that the FBK report included inaccurate information.

Federal News Agency

Shilova said her son contracted an intestinal infection at the end of last year and had to undergo costly medical treatments. When she had difficulty paying for the treatments, Shilova said, she received a message from FBK activist and attorney Lyubov Sobol, who promised to pay for the child’s treatment in exchange for an interview.

During that interview, Shilova told the FBK that she had sought a job at Moskovsky Shkolnik “with the aim of figuring out what they’re feeding our kids.” She said she had seen employees falsify veterinary forms, use low-quality food products, and violate a variety of sanitary regulations. When she reported the violations to the company’s leadership, she said, she was fired. The FBK report included photographs that Shilova supposedly provided herself. Russian-speaking Internet users noted that one photograph featuring a toilet bowl that was allegedly used as a sink had been extant since 2011 at least. That image was later removed from the FBK’s video.

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Now, Shilova says the FBK gave her a prewritten text to read during the interview that she was not permitted to edit although it contained “a lot of speculation and various inaccuracies.” She also asserted that Alexey Navalny himself decided to use the photograph of the toilet bowl, saying it would “go over great.” According to Shilova, the politician justified the falsification by saying the FBK “is doing an important deed” by “freeing Russia.” The former food service employee said that after she had done everything Navalny and Sobol asked of her, they “betrayed her” and did not provide the financial help they had promised.

Shilova’s new online confession has received coverage in the state-owned outlet RT as well as a few smaller news sites that journalists have reported are tied to Evgeny Prigozhin. Aside from the Federal News Agency, those sites include Solovo i Delo, PolitRossia, Newsinform, and others. While Navalny has reported that the Moskovsky Shkolnik catering company is also related to Prigozhin, the company’s press service denies any such ties.

The latest video of Shilova was published online a day after Moskovsky Shkolnik sued the FBK, Navalny, Sobol, and Shilova herself. The content of the lawsuit has not yet been publicly revealed.

Translation by Hilah Kohen