Russia has been accused of meddling in US elections since at least 2016. Enter Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and close ally of President Vladimir Putin – also known as "Putin's chef." He's also the founder of the Wagner Group, a mercenary group accused of human rights abuses. Prigozhin was charged with conspiracy to defraud the US in 2018 for election interference. The US has also sanctioned him for funding the Internet Research Agency, a Russian "troll farm" that spread misinformation with fake accounts on social media to influence millions of US voters.
In a Telegram post on Monday (the day before the US midterm elections), Prigozhin seemed to admit that he had interfered with US elections and would continue to do so. He had previously denied his involvement in US elections, and this is the first admission from someone accused by Washington of meddling in the US election process. Although he's close to the Kremlin, he's not actually within the Russian government. So, US officials have said he's attempting to gain more influence and power in Russia.
"Gentlemen, we have interfered, are interfering and will interfere," said Prigozhin on social media on Monday. "Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do."
"How low the Western information and political environment has fallen if a restauranteur from Russia could influence elections in the United States or a European country," Russian President Putin said in June, referring to Prigozhin.
"We also know that part of Russia's efforts includes promoting narratives aimed at undermining democracy and sowing division and discord. It's not surprising that Russia would be highlighting their attempted efforts and fabricating a story about their successes on the eve of an election," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.