Prigozhin’s criminal past, straight from the source A complete translation of one of the court documents from the case that sent ‘Putin’s chef’ to prison, four decades ago
Russian oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin filing a lawsuit against Meduza has given us access to notarized copies of old court rulings involving him. We acknowledge the error in our 2016 article (which did contain an incorrect assertion pertaining to Prigozhin’s criminal record) and wish to correct it without making any claims about Prigozhin’s honor, dignity, or professional reputation. As such, we’re publishing a complete translation of the cassation court’s ruling on Prigozhin’s appeal against a verdict sentencing him to 13 years in a medium-security penal colony. This took place in 1981.
What was Prigozhin tried for?
Evgeny Prigozhin filed a defamation lawsuit against Meduza, its editor-in-chief Ivan Kolpakov, Dovod editor-in-chief Ilya Kosygin, and journalist Maxim Shevchenko in November 2020, after Dovod published an interview in which Shevchenko called Prigozhin a “twice-convicted felon, including for the involvement of minors in prostitution.” The interview linked to a Meduza article published on June 9, 2016: “Evgeny Prigozhin's right to be forgotten: What does Vladimir Putin's favorite chef want to hide from the Internet?”
Our article did state that Prigozhin was convicted of “involving minors in prostitution,” which led to Prigozhin’s complaints against Meduza. The story about “involving minors in prostitution” was widespread in the media at that time; according to Ilya Davlyatchin, author of Rosbalt’s investigation into Prigozhin, “in several news sources and, in principle, [even] on Wikipedia, there was a line about how Evgeny Viktorovich [Prigozhin] was convicted of involving minors in prostitution.”
In 2018 (two years after Meduza’s article was published), Rosbalt managed to obtain copies of the verdict from Prigozhin’s case from St. Petersburg’s Primorsky District Court (formerly, the Zhdanovsky District Court of Leningrad — where Prigozhin was tried in 1981). These documents confirmed that there was no mention of prostitution in the judgement.
Apparently, the widespread error (which, unfortunately, ended up in Meduza’s reporting) was due to a phrase from Article 210 of Soviet Russia’s Criminal Code, which appeared in Prigozhin’s verdict: “The involvement of minors in criminal activity, panhandling, prostitution, or gambling, as well the use of minors for living parasitically.” It’s clear from other court documents that Prigozhin’s conviction has to do with “drunkenness” and “attempted burglary.”
We chose to translate and publish the cassation court’s ruling on the Zhdanovsky District Court’s verdict not only because it’s shorter than the verdict itself (which spans 200 pages of handwritten text), but also for the sake of objectivity. In addition to a description of the crime, the text contains Prigozhin’s own position, including the parts of the verdict he disagreed with and the objections he raised.
And now — the document
Case No. I-175
People’s Judge M.S. Abramov
The Leningrad City Court Judicial Board for Criminal Cases
Consisting of Chairman E.V. Semenyako
and members L.N. Vishnevskaya, A.A. Khokhlov
reviewed, during a court session on December 17, 1981, an appeal against the ruling made by the Zhdanovsky District People’s Court of Leningrad on October 6, 1981, which convicted:
- Alexey Vasilyevich Bushman, born September 9, 1957, a native of Leningrad, sentenced on August 29, 1977, under Article 144, section 2 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, to 1 year in prison, which he completed on November 25, 1978; unemployed, —
sentenced to prison:
under Article 147, section 3 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 6 years,
under Article 144, section 3 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 5 years,
under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 4 years,
under Article 209, section 1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 1 year,
under Article 115-1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 1 year,
under subsections “a” and “b” of Article 146, section 2 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, for multiple offenses, for a period of 11 years to be served in a high-security penal colony.
- Evgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, born June 1, 1961, a native of Leningrad, sentenced on June 29, 1979, under Article 15 and Article 144, section 2 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, to 2 years in prison with the additional application of Article 24-2 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR —
sentenced to prison:
under Article 144, section 2 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 5 years,
under Article 15 and Article 144, section 2 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 4 years,
under Article 147, section 3 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 7 years,
under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR — for a period of 4 years,
under subsections “a” and “b” of Article 146, section 2 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, for multiple offenses, for a period of 12 years. In accordance with Article 41 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, this punishment is partially supplemented in the form of 1 year of imprisonment by an unserved sentence from a ruling made on November 29, 1979 and definitively set at 13 years in prison, to be served in a medium-security penal colony.
Having heard court member E.V. Semenyako’s report, lawyer Y.H. Deza’s (Note from Meduza: in other documents, this person is referred to as Y.H. Tezo) defense of Prigozhin, and the conclusion of prosecutor M.N. Shiremina, who believed the sentence should remained unchanged, the Judicial Board
Bushman and Prigozhin are found guilty of committing the following crimes:
On March 20, 1980, at around 24:00 outside the building at 7 M. Zheleznyaka Street, Bushman and Prigozhin, by prior conspiracy and also having discussed it with Makeko and Kopayev, committed, with the use of a knife as a weapon, an assault on a woman named Koroleva under the following circumstances:
On the evening of March 20, 1980, Bushman, Prigozhin, Kopayev, and Makeko were in a restaurant called “Okean.” After leaving the restaurant at around 24:00, they encountered Koroleva, who they previously did not know. Prigozhin suggested that they take away her property. Prigozhin and the others agreed with this (Note from Meduza: this is the exact wording in the document). After which they caught up with Koroleva outside the building at 7 M. Zheleznyaka Street, where Prigozhin and Makeko approached Koroleva, and Makeko asked her for a cigarette with the intention of distracting her. When Koroleva opened her purse, Prigozhin grabbed her by the neck from behind and began choking her, and Makeko threatened her with a knife and helped pull her away from the street. Prigozhin continued to choke Koroleva until she lost consciousness, after which Bushman took off her boots and gave one to Kopayev, and Prigozhin and Makeko took the victim’s gold earrings worth 50 rubles. They all fled the scene with the stolen property.
On September 28, 1979, at around 20:00, Bushman secretly took a woman’s purse containing a makeup set, gloves, and an umbrella, together worth 114 rubles and 50 kopeks, from a “Zaporozhets” automobile belonging to a female citizen named Veterzon, parked outside the building at 22 V. Vishnevsky Street.
Between February 22 and 27, 1980, Bushman and Prigozhin broke into apartment 30 at 24 Maklina Prospekt and stole property worth 177 rubles from the room of a woman named Osipov, causing the victim significant material damage.
On the night of March 1, Prigozhin, in an effort to steal personal property from apartment 2 at 12 Ropshinskaya Street, broke one of the apartment’s windows, but was unable to see his criminal intent through, as he was noticed by bystanders.
On the night of March 2, Bushman and Prigozhin, by conspiracy and in a group, stole personal property from apartment 2 at 12 Ropshinskaya Street, which belonged to the Telitsin family: a tape recorder, a radio receiver, two carpet runners, crystal, and other things, collectively worth 980 rubles, causing the victims significant material damage.
On March 14, 1980, at around 12:00, Prigozhin and Bushman, by conspiracy and in a group, broke into apartment 157 at 28 Bryantseva Street along with convict Makeko, using a crowbar to break through the doors. They stole property belonging to the Rostovtsev family, including items made from crystal, a steering wheel cover, candles, a set of pens, and 3 percent bonds worth 1,300 rubles, all collectively worth 1,610 rubles, causing the victims significant material damage.
On March 19, Prigozhin, by previous conspiracy and in a group with convicts Makeko, Kopayev, and Yerin, attempted to break into apartment 35 at 26 Bryantseva Street. Having agreed to rob the specified apartment, Makeko, on instructions from Prigozhin, kept watch in the entryway, and Kopayev stayed on the staircase for the same purpose, while Prigozhin and Yerin, broke the front door to the apartment with the help of a tire iron, tried to open the front door by selecting the right keys, but then, after getting scared that an alarm would go off, fled the scene of the crime with carrying out their intent to completion.
On March 20, 1980, Prigozhin and Bushman, by conspiracy and in a group with Makeko, fraudulently stole Kovalenko’s property, causing him significant material damage. Under the pretense of purchasing jeans and other scarce commodities for the victim, they obtained 250 rubles from him, then drove with the victim to 12/63 Masterskaya Street, where Prigozhin led the victim down the street to where the items allegedly were, then fled into a courtyard, after which he left in a car with Bushman and Makeko, who had been waiting for him.
Knowing Kopayev was a minor, they — Bushman and Prigozhin, together with Makeko — implicated him in drunkenness during the period from March 16 to 21, drinking alcoholic beverages with him in restaurants and in the apartment of their acquaintance Blokhin, in addition to implicating him in criminal activity, committing burglary and assault with him during the period from March 19 to 20.
Bushman led a parasitic lifestyle: over the course of a year, he didn’t work for more than 4 months, he subsisted on unearned income, and, despite the official warning he received on September 11, 1979, he continued his parasitic existence.
He maliciously avoided paying alimony for his child, recoverable by a court ruling made on May 3, 1979. Not working beginning in 1978, he didn’t provide any material assistance for his child, didn’t make any attempt to find employment, and has an outstanding alimony debt for a period of 13 months and 21 days.
He also avoided getting treatment for a venereal disease; having been warned after the detection of syphilis on December 25 about how to treat the disease and his responsibility to avoid it, beginning on January 12, 1980, he stopped appearing at the KVD [dermatovenerologic dispensary], despite multiple summons.
The following requests were made in the cassation appeals:
Convict Prigozhin and his lawyer request that the charges of attempted burglary in a group along with convicts Makeko, Yerin, and Kopayev at apartment 36 at 26 Bryantseva Street be excluded from the sentence, citing the participants’ voluntary refusal to see the crime through; they request the exclusion of indications that Bushman and Makeko participated in the crime of fraud against the victim Kovalenko, taking into account the convicts’ testimonies about how Prigozhin committed the crime on his own; they request exclusion of any indication of significant material damage caused to the victim in the same case and the reclassification of the convict’s actions under Article 147, section 2; a reduction in punishment; the exclusion of charges against Makeko and Bushman for the theft of the victims Rostovetsev’s personal property, taking into account their testimonies in the court session about how Makeko committed this crime without the help of the other convicts; reclassification of the convicts’ actions under Article 146, section 2 to section 1 of the same article in the case of the assault of Koroleva, taking into account the convicts’ testimonies in the court session about how Prigozhin committed the assault independently, without the other convicts’ participation; the exclusion from the sentence of the conviction under RSFSR Criminal Code Article 210 for lack of evidence, as Prigozhin’s knowledge of Kopayev’s age has not been confirmed; and to reduce the punishment imposed by the court, taking into account the decrease in culpability and the reclassification of the convicted person’s actions.
Convict Bushman and his lawyer request:
the cancellation of the sentence in the part of Bushman’s conviction that falls under Article 146, section 2 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR referring to the assault episode, for the lack of evidence that Bushman was involved in the crime,
to overturn the verdict in the part of Bushman’s conviction that falls under Article 147, section 3 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, referring to the episode of fraud against Kovalenko, on the grounds that Bushman was not a part of Prigozhin and Makeko’s conspiracy and did not participate in the commission of the crime,
exclude from the verdict the charge against Bushman for involvement in the group theft with Prigozhin and Makeko of personal property from the victims Rostovtsev, taking into account the convicts’ testimonies in the court session about the fact that Makeko committed the theft independently.
After reviewing the case materials and discussing the arguments made in the complaints, the Judicial Board finds the judgement legal and justified.
Prigozhin and Bushman’s guilt in the stated crimes is established by the body of evidence available in the case, which the court correctly assessed in the judgement.
In the case of the assault against victim Koroleva, the convicts’ guilt is confirmed by the victim’s testimony, which made it clear that Prigozhin and Bushman took part in the attack against the victim and, along with the other convicts Makeko and Kopayev, stole her boots and earrings; by convict Kopayev’s testimony, which made it clear that they — referring to Prigozhin himself, Bushman, Makeko, and him, Kopayev — agreed to attack Koroleva with the intention of taking possession of her property, which they subsequently did; by convict Bushman’s testimony in the preliminary hearing, correctly determined by the court to be credible, in which Bushman acknowledged his participation in the attack against Koroleva; by Prigozhin and Makeko’s testimony about the circumstances of the attack against the victim and the theft of her property, as well as a medical examiner’s report on the bodily harm inflicted on the victim; by information contained in the report from an inspection of the victim’s coat, which indicates the use of a knife against the victim.
The evidence presented refutes the arguments made by the convicts and their lawyers that the attack against Koroleva was committed by Prigozhin alone and that Bushman’s participation in the crime has not been confirmed.
In the case of the theft of victim Viterzon’s personal property (Note from Meduza: her surname is spelled many different ways in this document), Bushman’s guilt is confirmed by the victim’s testimonies, Bushman’s confession, and the witness Ivanov’s testimonies.
In the case of the theft of Osipov’s personal property, Bushman and Prigozhin’s guilt is confirmed by Prigozhin’s testimonies, Bushman’s testimonies in a preliminary hearing, correctly determined by the court to be credible, and the victim’s testimonies about the amount and value of the stolen property.
In the case of Prigozhin’s attempt to steal property from the Telitsin family’s apartment on March 1, 1980, and the case of the theft in this apartment committed by Prigozhin and Bushman on March 2, the convicts’ guilt is confirmed by their personal confessions, witness Melnikova’s testimony about the reasons why Prigozhin didn’t carry out his intent on March 1, 1980, witnesses Toropova and Andrianova’s testimonies about the damage to the window of the Telitsin family’s apartment, and victim Telitsina’s testimonies about the circumstances of the theft, and the amount and value of the stolen property.
In the case of the theft of the Rostovtsev family’s personal property, Bushman and Prigozhin’s guilt is confirmed by the convict Makeko’s testimonies in the investigation, which the court assessed in the hearing and correctly determined to be credible, and from which it is clear that Bushman and Prigozhin, along with Makeko, committed this theft; by victim Rostovtseva and witness Rostovtseva’s testimonies, from which it is clear that Prigozhin had previously been in their apartment and only he could point to their apartment as a place to commit theft; by witness Kryukova’s testimony, in which she indicated that she had seen Makeko with two young men outside of the victims’ apartment, which also corroborates Prigozhin and Bushman’s participation in the theft.
Having assessed the body of evidence provided, the court justifiably recognized Bushman and Prigozhin’s denials of guilt in this theft, and Makeko’s refusal to repeat the testimony he gave in the preliminary investigation at the court hearing, as an attempt to evade responsibility for their actions.
In the case of the attempted group theft of personal property from victim Ioff’s apartment on March 19, 1980, Prigozhin’s guilt is confirmed by victim Ioff’s testimonies about the circumstances of the breakin at his apartment through the front door and the damage to the alarm system; by the watch-keeping protocol at the crime scene, in which convicts Yerin and Kopayev participated, from which it is clear that they did indeed try to enter the victim’s apartment, together with Prigozhin, with the intention of committing theft, but, scared an alarm would go off, fled the crime scene; by the testimonies given by convicts Kopayev, Yerin, and Makeko during the investigation and during the court session, from which it is clear that they did not carry out the plan they had made with Prigozhin because of reasons out of their control, namely the fear of an alarm system.
Taking this evidence into account, convict Prigozhin and his lawyer’s arguments about how Prigozhin and the other convicts voluntarily refrained from seeing their crime through cannot be considered credible.
In the case of fraud against victim Kovalenko, Prigozhin and Bushman’s guilt is confirmed by the victim’s testimonies, from which it follows that Prigozhin and Bushman, as well as convict Makeko, were acting under the pretext of obtaining scarce goods for him when they took his money in the amount of 250 rubles, and, as a result of the crime, caused the victim significant material damage.
Factual evidence contained in convicts Prigozhin and Makeko’s testimonies demonstrate the veracity of the victim’s testimonies and simultaneously expose the convicts’ desire to conceal the true circumstances by means of Prigozhin taking sole (illegible) responsibility for the fraud, which the court correctly indicated in the sentence.
In the case of the involvement of Kopayev, a minor, in drunkenness and criminal activity, Bushman and Prigozhin’s guilt is established by convict Kopayev’s testimonies about how Bushman and Prigozhin were aware of his age when they drank alcoholic beverages with him, as well as when they committed crimes with him; and by analogous testimonies from Yerin. Neither Yerin nor Kopayev had any reason to slander Prigozhin or Bushman.
Bushman’s guilt in leading a parasitic lifestyle, maliciously evading alimony payments, and evading treatment for his venereal disease, is also properly established and confirmed by the body of evidence presented in the ruling.
The convicts’ criminal activities are classified correctly.
The issue of the type and length of the punishment was decided by the court in accordance with the legal requirements: taking into account the character and severity of the crimes committed by Prigozhin and Bushman, all of the circumstances of the case, and information about the individuals convicted.
The Judicial Board therefore finds no grounds for reducing the sentence.
The issue of the victims’ civil claims has been properly resolved by the court.
By virtue of the above, in accordance Article 332 and Article 339, section 1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (Note from Meduza: These articles specify the cassation court’s powers), the Judicial Board
The ruling made by the Zhdanovsky District People’s Court of Leningrad on October 6, 1981, against ALEXEY VASILYEVICH BUSHMAN and EVGENY VIKTOROVICH PRIGOZHIN will remain unchanged, and the cassation appeals are dismissed.
CHAIRMAN — signature
BOARD MEMBERS — signatures
On February 16, 2021, Moscow’s Savelov District Court dismissed Evgeny Prigozhin’s lawsuit against Meduza and its editor-in-chief. On May 24, however, the Moscow City Court overturned this ruling and ordered Meduza to delete its article titled “Evgeny Prigozhin's right to be forgotten” within 10 days, and to pay Prigozhin 80,000 rubles ($1,100) in compensation. Meduza plans to challenge the Moscow City Court’s ruling.
Translation by Sam Breazeale