The United States is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Kremlin-friendly Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin in connection with alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The FBI’s announcement said that Prigozhin is wanted for alleged “involvement in a conspiracy to defraud the United States…for the purposes of interfering with the United States political system, including the 2016 President Election.”
In a statement to RFE/RL, the FBI confirmed it was the first time it was offering a reward for Prigozhin, but declined to explain why it chose to do so now.
Prigozhin was one of 13 Russians added to the FBI’s wanted list in connection with the alleged election interference.
A U.S. arrest warrant was issued in February 2018.
Prigozhin responded on Telegram on February 26 by saying he was being used as a “scapegoat” to “cover up the colossal gap between the deep state and the people” in the United States.
Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because he owns a company that provides catering for events in President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, controls the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency. That firm is a so-called troll factory that allegedly carried out a massive online campaign aimed at influencing politics in the United States and other countries.
Prigozhin also controls private security firms that have recruited mercenaries to advance Putin’s interests in places like Ukraine, Syria, and several African countries.
The Russian government has denied interfering in the domestic politics of other countries.
However, a U.S. joint intelligence assessment in January 2017 concluded that “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect [Donald] Trump’s election chances when possible.”
The FBI also added Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik to its wanted list and offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
An arrest warrant was issued for Kilimnik in June 2018 on charges of obstruction of justice.
Kilimnik was a former assistant to U.S. political consultant Paul Manafort when Manafort was working in Ukraine for pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort later served as Trump’s campaign manager.
Kilimnik, who is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence services, was accused of carrying out illegal lobbying efforts in the United States on behalf of the Yanukovych government.
According to a 2020 U.S. Senate report on the alleged interference in the 2016 election, “Kilimnik likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services, and that those services likely sought to exploit Manafort’s access to gain insight into the [Trump] campaign.”