A Kremlin-linked businessman known as ‘Putin’s Chef’ has vowed to financially ruin poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is in a coma in a Berlin hospital, as Britain backs calls for an independent investigation.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose company Konkord has laid on catering at the Kremlin, said that if Navalny recovers he’ll go after him for £885,000 he owes in damages and ‘strip him of his clothes and shoes.’ 

Reports have previously claimed that the Chef funds Wagner, a private army of mercenaries, which he denies. 

Navalny, a 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner who is one of Putin’s fiercest opponents, is being treated at Berlin’s Charite hospital after falling ill on a flight in Siberia last Thursday. Tests by German medics indicated poisoning by cholinesterase inhibitors, which are found in Novichok nerve agents.

Britain has since said that it will back an independent investigation into the suspected poisoning, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday.

‘We need a full, transparent investigation into what happened. The perpetrators must be held accountable and the UK will join international efforts to ensure justice is done,’ he said. 

Konkord catering boss Yevgeny 'Putin's Chef' Prigozhin (left) serves  a plate of food to Russian President Vladimir Putin at Prigozhin's restaurant outside Moscow in 2011

Konkord catering boss Yevgeny ‘Putin’s Chef’ Prigozhin (left) serves  a plate of food to Russian President Vladimir Putin at Prigozhin’s restaurant outside Moscow in 2011

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny takes part in a rally in Moscow, Russia February 29, 2020

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny takes part in a rally in Moscow, Russia February 29, 2020

Navalny ally says only Putin could have authorised the hit

A senior ally of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny said on Wednesday he believed only President Vladimir Putin could have authorised the suspected poisoning of the outspoken Kremlin critic.

The Kremlin has dismissed as ‘hot air’ and untrue any suggestion Putin was somehow involved in Navalny falling ill. It also says it remains unclear if Navalny was actually poisoned. 

Without providing evidence, Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), said ‘it is clear that only Putin personally could have sanctioned Navalny’s poisoning’.

‘He hates what the FBK does too much, exposing him and his entourage,’ he said.

Konkord’s press service in a statement on social media on Tuesday evening quoted Prigozhin as saying he intended to enforce a court decision last year that Navalny and his associates must pay him almost 88 million rubles in damages over a video report.

‘I intend to strip this group of unscrupulous people of their clothes and shoes,’ Prigozhin was quoted as saying after paying off the company directly named in the court case, meaning the payment would go to him directly.

Prigozhin said that ‘if comrade Navalny kicks the bucket, I personally don’t intend to persecute him in this world.

‘I’ll put this off for an indefinite time and then I’ll compensate myself to my pleasure.’

If Navalny survives, Prigozhin said he would be liable ‘according to the full severity of Russian law.’

A court in October last year ordered that Navalny, his associate Lyubov Sobol and the Anti-Corruption Foundation he founded must jointly pay almost 88 million rubles to the Moskovsky Shkolnik (Moscow schoolboy) company that makes school dinners.

The company has been linked to Prigozhin in media reports. He denies owning it.

The case concerned a video investigation by the foundation that accused the company of monopolising the market and alleged its food was bad quality and made children ill.

Navalny in July formally closed the foundation in a move to avoid paying its share of the court-ordered penalty. 

Koncord Catering general director Yevgeny Prigozhin at a meeting of Russian and Turkish government officials and business leaders

Koncord Catering general director Yevgeny Prigozhin at a meeting of Russian and Turkish government officials and business leaders

Its director Ivan Zhdanov in a message to supporters on Wednesday suggested that Navalny could have been poisoned over one of the foundation’s investigations.

Medical specialists carry Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on a stretcher into an ambulance on their way to an airport before his medical evacuation to Germany in Omsk, Russia, August 22

Medical specialists carry Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on a stretcher into an ambulance on their way to an airport before his medical evacuation to Germany in Omsk, Russia, August 22

Without providing evidence, Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), said ‘it is clear that only Putin personally could have sanctioned Navalny’s poisoning’.

‘He hates what the FBK does too much, exposing him and his entourage,’ he said.

German doctors treating Navalny in Berlin said on Monday that medical examinations indicated poisoning with some kind of cholinesterase inhibitor.

The specific substance is not yet known but cholinesterase inhibitors are a group of chemical compounds used in medicines to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimers and other kinds of dementia.

Nerve gases and the so-called ‘Novichok’ group of chemicals – substances used in 2018 to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in England – are also cholinesterase inhibitors.

Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft and mobilising protests.

However, he has said he believes his death would not help Putin. Reuters reported he had told supporters just before his illness that his death would ‘turn him into a hero.’

source: dailymail.co.uk

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here