New Russia Sanctions Target Shadowy Business Empire Of 'Putin's Chef' For US Election Interference

On Monday the US Treasury unleashed a range of new and tightened sanctions on nearly a dozen Russian companies and individuals, including the influential businessman and political operative dubbed "Putin's Chef" as part of a continuing attempt to "punish" the country for alleged interference in the 2018 elections. 

Two of the Russians were said to be involved in the Internet Research Agency, which was at the center of reports claiming online meddling and interference  especially billionaire restaurateur Yevgeny Prigozhin, who often served as personal chef and close confidant to Putin stretching back through the Russian president's lengthy political career. 

Moscow businessman and restaurateur Yevgeny Prigozhin (left), dubbed "Putin's Chef". Image via The New York Times

Prigozhin is believed the main financial backer to the Internet Research Agency and has long been at the center of wide-ranging corruption allegations and shadowy political dealing abroad, even including overseeing Russian mercenaries covertly deployed to places like Syria and Libya. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had named him as central to online interference related to fake social media accounts geared toward getting Trump elected. 

The US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced Monday that a number of companies directly linked Prigozhin have been targeted including Autolex Transport, Beratex Group and Linburg Industries, all of which have now been added to the Specially Designated Nationals list. 

While Prigozhin along with the Internet Research Agency had already been named in prior US Treasury sanctions, the latest measures constitute the most aggressive attempt to date to curtail his expansive Moscow-based business empire as an alleged arm of the Russian state

St Vitamin: Prigozhin’s Yacht, via US Treasury

Interestingly, as part of its statement, Treasury featured photos of one of "Putin's chef" Prigozhin's private jets and his multi-million dollar yacht. 

Despite the explosive headlines, the Treasury statement still admitted that in 2018, “there was no indication that foreign actors were able to compromise election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts, or disrupted the tallying of votes.”