Yevgeny Prigozhin. Picture: REUTERS
Yevgeny Prigozhin. Picture: REUTERS

Moscow — On Tuesday, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who says he was “wrongfully persecuted” by the US, which claimed he meddled in 2016 elections, has vowed to sue Washington for $50bn in damages.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the rich Russian businessman dubbed “Putin’s chef”, made the announcement on Monday after the US justice department abruptly dropped charges against his company Concord Management and Consulting.

Prosecutors had accused Concord of being behind a campaign to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

This development means that allegations such as “Prigozhin meddled in a US presidential election” or “Russia meddled in a US presidential election” were “lies and fiction”, the businessman said.

Concord is preparing a lawsuit for “wrongful persecution”, Prigozhin said in a statement, adding that he is seeking $50bn in damages. The US authorities had dropped the case because they were scared of bad “publicity and a fair trial”, he added.

The US justice department announced late on Monday that it is withdrawing the eight-count indictment of Concord, just weeks before the trial was due to begin.

Concord, which funds the Saint Petersburg-based troll factory known as the Internet Research Agency, was named in an indictment against 13 Russian individuals and three companies.

It was one of the major outcomes of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

The US government concluded that further proceedings against Concord “promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation’s security”.

The Internet Research Agency, Mueller charged, actively pumped disinformation, memes and fake news into social media via false accounts to influence US voters and tilt the election to help Trump.

Like Mueller, US intelligence chiefs concluded that the Concord-run operation was one half of a sweeping campaign overseen by Putin to help Trump and hurt his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The other half was hacking by Russian intelligence.

Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU figured heavily in the Mueller report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, which concluded that Russia hacked the Democrat Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign to help Trump.

AFP

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