Yevgeny Prigozhin is known as “Putin’s chef” because he provides catering and food for the Russian government. Now it has become known that in 2022 alone the Ministry of Defense filed 560 lawsuits against Prigozhin for supplying rotten or substandard food.
If the nickname contains the word chef, it can actually be assumed that the person acquired it through qualities in food preparation. It’s different with Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group and known as “Putin’s cook”. He got the nickname due to his numerous contracts providing catering and food to the Russian government.
Now it has become known that he does not always bring the best quality to the table. In 2022 alone, the Russian Defense Ministry sued him 560 times for allegedly delivering rotten or substandard food. For this, the ministry is demanding more than 107 million rubles (around 1.55 million US dollars) in damages, as reported by the independent Russian telegram channel “We can explain”.
“This is a record number of lawsuits in a single year of litigation between the department and the supplier, although it’s not a record amount,” the channel writes. In 2020, Voentorg, a supplier of military clothing and equipment, even demanded 197 million rubles (about 2.86 million US dollars) from Prigozhin’s company.
These have gained in importance due to the war in Ukraine. As a result, the requirements for supplying the army with food have increased significantly. Prigozhin’s companies not only deliver the food, but also prepare and serve it. Since then, however, the number of irregularities and disputes of a legal nature relating to the army’s food supply has increased sharply.
The range of health violations is wide. While quantities that are too small and the replacement of high-quality products with cheaper ingredients still sound harmless, the other violations are rather unappetizing. “We can explain” mentions, among other things, expired products, bacteria and even insects in delivered food, cooks without a health certificate and violations in storage. But none of this is new for Prigozhin’s company.
Not only the Russian army is affected. Firms owned or associated with Prigozhin also supply kindergartens, hospitals, old people’s homes and rescue services. Again and again there were scandals. Since 2011, lawsuits totaling almost 900 million rubles (about 13 million US dollars) have been filed against these companies. This often involved foreign objects in the food. From plastic parts and human hair to bugs, worms and cockroaches, everything was there.
There have also been repeated reports of rotten and infected food. Hundreds of firefighters, soldiers, schoolchildren and residents of old people’s homes that Prigozhin supplied contracted diseases such as rotavirus, salmonella, gastroenteritis and staphylococci. In 2018, there was a mass outbreak of dysentery in seven Moscow kindergartens, from which 127 people fell ill. A cottage cheese supplied by a Prigozhin company is said to be responsible for this.
In addition to the quality of the food, the poor hygiene standards in the companies are said to be responsible for this. According to “We can explain”, the poor hygiene conditions can be found “everywhere in the companies mentioned: in laundry, on the hands of the workers, in food”. Prigozhin’s companies have also been sued several times for fraud. The reason: They either delivered less than agreed or replaced high-quality food with cheaper or even expired ingredients.
However, this did not detract from Prigozhin’s success. “Putin’s cook” continued to receive commissions from the Russian government. In 2017, the year when most of the lawsuits were filed against him, he shipped 39.8 billion rubles (about $578.2 million) worth of groceries and food.