U.S. Treasury sanctions 'Putin's Chef' for more attempted election interference

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, known as "Putin's Chef," was previously sanctioned for attempted meddling in the 2016 election. The new sanctions focus on 2018.
Image: Yevgeny Prigozhin at a meeting between Russian and Turkish officials and business leaders in 2016.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, shown in 2016, is a Russian-catering magnate known as "Putin's chef" for his close ties to the Russian president.Mikhail Metzel / TASS via Getty Images file

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By Adiel Kaplan and Tom Winter

The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on Monday against Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch known as "Putin's Chef," for attempting to influence the 2018 U.S. election, blocking Prigozhin's yacht and private jets from entering the U.S.

The Treasury previously sanctioned Prigozhin, one of the wealthiest men in Russia and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg-based internet troll farm, for their 2016 election meddling campaign. It is now adding additional sanctions for attempted meddling in the 2018 election.

Prigozhin is the financier behind the Internet Research Agency. He was among the 13 Russians indicted with the Internet Research Agency (IRA) by special counsel Robert Mueller for their campaign to sow discord before the 2016 U.S. election.

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Monday's sanctions include the IRA and six named members of the IRA as well.

"Prigozhin has spent significant funds to further the Internet Research Agency’s attempted influence operations in connection with the 2018 U.S. midterm elections," the department said, before identifying specific property to be sanctioned.

The Treasury targeted Prigozhin's luxury property in the sanctions — three private planes and a yacht called St. Vitamin, as well as the front companies he was using to manage them. Photos on social media showed that Prigozhin's family have vacationed on St. Vitamin and used one of the private jets, both of which are owned and operated by Beratex Group Limited, a Seychelles-based company.

St. Vitamin, the yacht Yevgeniy Prigozhin's family has vacationed on, which was sanctioned by the Treasury for attempted 2018 election interference.U.S. Department of the Treasury

The department found that between 2017 and 2018, the jet "conducted numerous flights throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Europe to include Sudan, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Germany, Spain, and Russia."

The Treasury identified two other jets, registered to the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man, owned by other Seychelles companies.

"All property and interests in property of these persons, including the identified aircraft and vessel, that are or come within the possession of U.S. persons are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them," the announcement stated.

The Treasury announcement also noted that "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."