Billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin is prepared to buy the news outlet Fontanka, which recently published a series of articles about his activities, reported Novaya Gazeta with reference to its own sources.
According to the newspaper, the offer to sell Fontanka (and simultaneously Delovoy Peterburg) to Prigozhin was made by people who have no relation to the news outlet “on paper”, but “hold weight in deciding its fate”. As Novaya notes, pressure was exerted “on the level of presidential administration officials”.
According to Novaya, this concerns Fort Group owners Maksim Levchenko and Boris Paikin, who had previously shown interest in Fontanka. As the newspaper points out, Gazprom Deputy Chairman Valery Golubev is a beneficiary of Fort Group. Golubev was one of Putin’s colleagues between 1979 and 1991. Novaya notes that it was through Golubev that Prigozhin informed the owners of Fort Group of his desire to purchase Fontanka and Delovoy Peterburg.
In summer this year, Fontanka published a series of Denis Korotkov’s “Wagner’s List” materials. These articles talk about the activity of a private military group connected to Prigozhin in Syria. According to Fontanka, Wagner Group is involved in defending the gas deposits in Syria. The Syrian authorities reportedly signed a contract with LLC Evro Polis, which is connected to Prigozhin. The Kremlin says that it is unaware of any contract between Prigozhin’s company and the Syrian government to protect the deposits.
Fontanka chief editor Alexander Gorshkov said that the news outlet understood that there would be “blowback” after the publication of “Wagner’s List”, but did not expect to be “burned with napalm”. After the articles, Fontanka’s website was hacked, the author of the publication was called a national traitor and an ISIS agent, and Fontanka’s private bank statements were published online. However, Gorshkov believes that “If the decision were made to squash us, the heavy artillery would be brought out”.
“Of course, we live in a free country, and every citizen has the right to buy what he wants, without violating Russian laws. But even if someone wants to buy, it doesn’t mean that someone wants to sell. It would be incorrect to say that there are things which will not be sold, but it would be correct to say that there are things which will not be sold into bad hands,” he added.
Yevgeny Prigozhin is known as “Putin’s chef”, since amongst other things, he deals with food supplies for the Russian authorities. The businessman met the Russian president in 2011 when, as the owner of an elite restaurant, he personally served Vladimir Putin and former French President Jacques Chirac.