The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a U.S. intelligence agency intercepted Russian communications revealing that Evgeny Prigozhin was “personally involved in planning” the attack that provoked a deadly U.S. airstrike on February 7 against pro-regime ground forces in Syria near Deir al-Zour.
Prigozhin, who allegedly controls Russia’s “Wagner” private military company, apparently discussed the attack with senior Syrian officials, including Presidential Affairs Minister Mansour Fadlallah Azzam, saying he had permission to pursue a “fast and strong” initiative from an unnamed minister in the Russian government.
The Post also says Prigozhin was in contact with top Kremlin officials before and after the attack, including Putin’s chief of staff, Anton Vaino, and the president’s deputy chief of staff, Vladimir Ostrovenko, though it’s unknown what they discussed.
Who is Evgeny Prigozhin?
He’s best known as “Putin’s favorite chef,” thanks to his billion-dollar catering and restaurant empire, which feeds both St. Petersburg's elite and millions of Russian soldiers, through lucrative federal procurement contracts. Foodie that he is, Prigozhin has his fingers in more than one pie: he’s also the rumored founder and mastermind behind Russia’s “troll factory,” and just last week a U.S. grand jury indicted him over the Internet Research Agency's alleged interference in American politics.
Prigozhin is also the supposed owner of the “Wagner” PMC, which journalists say has fielded mercenaries in eastern Ukraine and Syria.