Evgeny Prigozhin is on the outs with Russia's Defense Ministry, but he's still got time to troll the U.S. government
Last year, Russia’s Defense Ministry reportedly lost its taste for Evgeny Prigozhin’s catering. According to a report by the newsletter The Bell, the total value of contracts between the ministry and various companies tied to Prigozhin’s cleaning and catering services fell to less than 1 billion rubles ($17.6 million).
That might sound like it’s still a lot of money, but consider the fact that Prigozhin’s businesses and the Defense Ministry had deals worth more than 27 billion rubles ($475.7 million) in 2015, and 13 billion rubles ($229 million) in 2016. According to The Bell, some of Prigozhin’s companies weren’t even paid the money promised in their contracts last year and had to collect their payments through lawsuits.
It’s unclear why the Defense Ministry has so drastically reduced its business with Prigozhin’s firms.
They don’t call him king of the trolls for nothing.
Despite the loss of business, Prigozhin seems to be in good spirits. On Friday, the magazine RBC reported that he formally registered a company with the name that appears in a recent indictment by a grand jury in the United States. “If the Americans want to find something, we’re happy to help them. That’s precisely why I’ve registered the company ‘Concord Catering,’ which never existed before. But if it’s named in Mueller’s charges, then let it be,” Prigozhin told RBC, speaking through a representative.
Notary records indicate that he registered the new legal entity on February 27. The Mueller indictment, which names Prigozhin and a dozen other Russian nationals in allegations of meddling in U.S. domestic affairs, also identifies the companies “Concord Management and Consulting LLC” and the “Internet Research Agency,” which was formally liquidated in late 2016.
Who’s Prigozhin again?
You’ve been hearing his name a lot in the news lately. Evgeny Prigozhin makes headlines for many reasons these days: he’s the rumored founder of the Internet Research Agency, Russia’s most notorious “troll factory,” and he runs a catering empire that wins enormous government contracts — but don’t cry for Evgeny about the lost Defense Ministry deals. Last year, his businesses won contracts to feed Moscow’s public schools worth 47 billion rubles ($827.2 million).
He also allegedly owns the “Wagner” private military company, which The Bell says recently signed an agreement with the Syrian government to help “liberate, protect, and develop” Syrian oil fields currently occupied by hostiles. To recap: Prigozhin is widely considered to be a close Putin ally who’s hostile to Western democracies, the Russian opposition, the Ukrainian military, and Assad’s adversaries in Syria.