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Troll farm oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin acts on Putin's orders
Alexei Druzhinin/Pool Photo via AP
Oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered poisonings, attacks, and a murder.
PUTIN'S POISONER

The oligarch behind Russia’s troll farm allegedly ordered beatings, poisonings, and a murder

By Max de Haldevang

The oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin is best known for three things: the moniker “Putin’s chef;” funding Russia’s notorious Internet Research Agency troll farm; and allegedly sending shadowy mercenaries to Ukraine and Syria. In Feb. 2018, he was indicted by US authorities for attempting to sway the US 2016 presidential election.

Prigozhin’s reputation for loyalty to the Kremlin got another boost today, after independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that he ordered attacks on anti-Putin bloggers and the murder of a Ukrainian separatist. Novaya Gazeta was told all this by Valery Alemchenko, an ex-convict who says he worked on shady operations for Prigozhin. They corroborated his accounts with two other sources.

Hours after meeting Novaya Gazeta reporter Denis Korotkov on Oct. 2, Alemchenko disappeared: Just after their meeting, Alemchenko called Korotkov and told him two men were following him. Later, Korotkov and a neighbor of Alemchenko’s found two cellphones and a shoe on the floor behind his building’s garage.

Alemchenko had told Novaya Gazeta that he was involved in the attacks on bloggers in Sochi and Pskov, and that they also used a psychotropic drug on the latter. The Sochi blogger changed careers shortly after the alleged attack. Alemchenko didn’t identify the blogger in Pskov, but Novaya Gazeta said the details matched those of Sergey Tikhonov, who died of a heart attack on June 29, 2016. However, Tikhonov’s relatives believe the heart attack diagnosis to be accurate, Novaya Gazeta reports.

Novaya Gazeta also alleges that in 2016, another Prigozhin associate attacked the husband of the lawyer for opposition activist Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, using a psychotropic drug. The alleged attacker died the following year; Alemchenko had told Novaya Gazeta he believed Prigozhin’s team might have killed him.