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Russian troops could face food shortage as key suppliers tied to Prigozhin

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Russian troops could face food shortages in Ukraine, as companies linked to recently deceased Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin still have a substantial hold on the production of rations and other food for the Russian military, an investigation has found.

Prigozhin was killed on August 23 when a private jet he owned crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in Russia’s Tver region, Russian authorities said. He was laid to rest in a private burial in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

The Wagner chief was given the nickname “Putin’s chef” after he became a restaurateur following a stint in prison. He began carrying out the catering for Kremlin banquets and personally served Putin himself. He later set up Concord Catering, which began by supplying food for school children before securing a contract to feed the Russian army.

Analysis by Verstka, an independent Russian news outlet that was founded shortly after the conflict in Ukraine began, found that at least 18 of the 32 food suppliers for Russia’s Ministry of Defense were controlled by the Wagner chief. His death raises questions about what’s to become of his rations empire, which supplies Russian troops on the front line.

Grave of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin
A man places an angel figurine at the grave of Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in St. Petersburg, Russia, on August 30, 2023. Russian troops could face food shortages, as companies linked to Prigozhin still hold a monopoly on the production of rations for the Russian military, an investigation has found.
OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images

Newsweek has contacted Russia’s Defense Ministry via email for comment.

Prigozhin was reportedly hit with 560 lawsuits in 2022 by Russia’s defense ministry for allegedly supplying the Russian army with poor-quality, rotten and infected food, the independent outlet Mozhem Obyasnit (“We can explain”) reported in January.

According to the publication, the Russian defense ministry’s procurement arm—JSC Voentorg—filed 560 lawsuits against food suppliers associated with Prigozhin, claiming more than 107 million rubles ($1,555,780) in damages.

Voentorg is a contractor of Russia’s defense ministry and provides catering and laundry services for the Russian army.

Catering companies associated with Prigozhin not only supply food products but also reportedly prepare and serve food directly in the military units themselves.

Mozhem Obyasnit reported that auditors regularly found violations, such as undersized portions, expired products, substituted products, the presence of E. coli in food, cooks without proper food safety training and storage violations.

There have been numerous reports of the provision of poor-quality food to Russian troops in Ukraine and soldiers on the frontlines are said to have experienced food shortages.

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