In an illuminating exclusive report, CNN is revealing that Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin —a man dubbed Putin’s “Chef” by the Russian press—is believed by US investigators to be financing the infamous Russian troll factory accused of attempting to sway the 2016 U.S. election with social media-shared fake news.
Prigozhin, a convicted felon turned catering/culinary magnate and Kremlin insider, has made quite a name for himself in Russia since renovating and opening his first of a number of restaurants in St. Petersburg over two decades ago. Now, based on the findings of a declassified January assessment by the US Intelligence community and “multiple officials briefed on investigation,” he may become famous in the US for something other than his restaurant empire:
US investigators believe it was Prigozhin’s company that financed a Russian “troll factory” that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign, according to multiple officials briefed on the investigation. One part of the factory had a particularly intriguing name and mission: a “Department of Provocations” dedicated to sowing fake news and social divisions in the West, according to internal company documents obtained by CNN.
Prigozhin is one of the Kremlin’s inner circle. His company is believed to be a main backer of the St. Petersburg-based “Internet Research Agency” (IRA), a secretive technology firm, according to US officials and the documents reviewed by CNN. Prigozhin was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in December of 2016 for providing financial support for Russia’s military occupation of Ukraine. Two of his companies, including his catering business, were also sanctioned by Treasury this year.
According to documents seen by CNN, the IRA posted job listings on the “headhunting” site “HH.RU,” which advertised positions to assist in the trolling for as little as $500 per month. Former employees are quoted in the report as saying that as many as over one thousand paid trolls were working out of the 55 Savushkina Street, IRA-registered office building (and possibly more remote) to advance these efforts.
Watch above, via CNN.
[image via screengrab]
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