No matter what the name of Yevgeny Prigogine is associated with - the "factory of trolls", interference with the elections of the United States, "PMC Wagner", and the extraction of oil, gas and gold - the title of "Kremlin cook" was firmly attached to it. Novaya Gazeta, together with the Center for the Study of Corruption and Organized Crime (OCCRP), looked at where Prigogine’s plane was flying and found out that for a long time, it was moving to Africa and the Middle East as scheduled. What does an ordinary catering entrepreneur prepare in areas of armed conflict around the world?
Raytheon HAWKER 800XP with registration number M-VITO is not a stranger to Prigogine. Since 2012, this business jet has been owned by the Seychelles company Beratex Group Limited, which does not disclose its owners. But the daughter of Eugene Prigogine - Polina published photos of the M-VITO aircraft in her instagram (now her account is closed). “Dad is a good-hearted person,” one of her friends commented on the photo. “And don't say,” answered Polina.
Judging by the photos that are available to the “New”, the spouse and children of Prigogine have often been on board a business jet, whose interior is identical to Raytheon HAWKER 800XP. The average price on the aviation exchange for the same model is about 2 million dollars.
The company, which owns the business jet M-VITO, also registered the 37-meter ST VITAMIN yacht, which Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation linked Prigozhin with the children's social networks thanks to Prigozhin’s family: the whole family had a rest on the yacht, and the children shared photos on the Internet and described the interior decoration ST VITAMIN. The cost of the yacht is 5 million euros.
HOW WE COLLECTED TRANSFER DATA
From December 2016 to January 2019 (26 months) we collected data on business jet flights from Yevgeny Prigogine from two sources (FlightAware and ADS-B Exchange), which track aircraft using ground-based receivers and satellite channels, as well as aggregate air traffic control data. Thanks to the indicator of height above sea level, it is possible to determine whether the aircraft made the landing, went on descending or continued on its way further, but already out of sight. This could happen if the aircraft was flying with the transponder turned off (a radio answering device, a device that transmits a signal in response to a received signal) or outside the area where there are tracking devices.
Where did you fly
After numerous flights of the “Kremlin chef” business jet from St. Petersburg to Moscow, the Middle East is the next most visited. In two years, the M-VITO business jet landed and took off 48 times from Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, which borders Syria. In most cases, Beirut, judging from the flight details, was used only as a staging post, from which a few hours after landing, the jet flew to Syria or to Africa.
Over the territory of Syria, M-VITO "lit up" at high altitude due to the small coverage area in this place, but in some cases it can be seen that the plane was going down. The airspace over Syria is not closed to civilian aircraft, but the European Aviation Safety Agency, if necessary, warns the airline about the possibility of attacking Syria. As a result, very few people risk flying there. Business jet Prigogine 21 times over the territory of Syria since 2016.
In addition to Syria, after stopping in Lebanon, M-VITO flew to Africa. Over the whole of the African continent, there is almost zero coverage by devices that receive signals from aircraft. The first time Prigogine’s plane was spotted in Africa over Egypt on November 10, 2017 at an altitude of 11 thousand meters. An expert in the field of aviation explained to Novaya Gazeta that this is the standard flight altitude of the aircraft, at which it continues its journey further and does not enter the landing. The aircraft was either out of coverage or turned off the transponder. Shortly after this flight, in December 2017, Moscow received permission from the UN to send weapons and instructors to the Central African Republic, despite the embargo imposed in 2013.
Since then, according to tracking, the business jet has “disappeared” 27 times over Egypt, next to Libya or over it. The fact that the plane "Kremlin chef" still did not sit in Egypt to relax at the resorts, confirm the reports of the Kenyan media: business jet Yevgeny Prigogine came from Sudan in Nairobi (Kenya capital) on December 17, 2018. According to the tracker, we see how M-VITO flew out of Berlin and landed in Beirut (Lebanon). Then on the same day the plane took off from Beirut and disappeared over Egypt. It turns out that a business jet flew over Egypt and first flew to Khartoum (the capital of Sudan), from where it went to Kenya. The landing of the Prigogine aircraft to Kenyan journalists was confirmed by the director of civil aviation Gilbert Kibe. On board were five people, but the Kenyan government refused to say whether Yevgeny Prigogine himself was among them. After staying in Kenya for three days, M-VITO with seven passengers already went to N'Djamena (the capital of Chad). And in the details of the flights one can see how on December 23 a business jet appears again over Egypt, makes a stop in Beirut and returns to Moscow.
While the whole country was on the New Year holidays M-VITO cruised everything along the same route: on January 6, 2019, a business jet flew to Beirut from St. Petersburg and after 2 hours went to Africa, again disappearing at high altitude over Egypt;On January 8, after stopping in Beirut, the plane returned to Russia.Two days later, M-VITO appeared over Africa already near Libya.
It is impossible to say for sure whether Prigogine was aboard his plane during all these flights. Perhaps for him there is a “special procedure” for flight registration. According to the source who has access to the registration data, the database does not contain information on the registration of Prigogine or anyone else on M-VITO flights.
However, on April 24, 2018, Prigogine was registered for one flight from Moscow to Khartoum (Sudan) on board another aircraft - with the registration number M-NJSS. According to the source having access to the flight registration data, Yevgeny Prigogine flew on this plane accompanied by two fighters from the “Wagner Group” (the editorial office has documentary evidence of the involvement of the accompanying WWNF PMCs).
After Novaya Gazeta discovered Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Libyan Marshal Khalif Haftar at the talks with RIA Novosti, he explained that he “organized an official dinner and took part in the discussion of the cultural program of the Libyan delegation’s visit”.
Is Prigogine able to fly regularly to zones of armed conflict, just to carefully control what the Russian military eat?
Businessman Prigogine is really engaged in lunches for high-ranking officials, and companies affiliated with him feed the Russian army. But the name of the “Kremlin cook” is connected, including with the “Wagner group”, which, according to publications of Russian and foreign publications, took part in hostilities in the east of Ukraine, in Syria, and since 2018 has been working in some African countries.
According to Fontanka, in December 2016, under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Energy, Euro Polis, associated with Prigogine, signed a memorandum with the Syrian government for a period of 5 years on protection from the militants of the country's oil and gas fields. In return, “Euro Polis” receives a quarter of the revenues from gas and oil production, plus the cost of the fighting, which is led by the PMC Wagner. In May 2017, Euro Polis opened a branch in Damascus (Syria).
Russia's interests in Africa, which include Prigogine’s structures, include ten African countries: Central Asia, Sudan, Libya, Madagascar, Angola, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. All these countries are united not only by the tense political situation (civil wars, military coups, and armed conflicts), but also by the wealth of natural resources. In addition to the signing of agreements on military cooperation, Russian companies are concluding agreements with the governments of these countries on exploration and mining of mineral resources. Yevgeny Prigogine plays an important role in these processes.
From 2018, information began to appear in the media that Russian mercenaries from PMC Wagner began to work in the Central African Republic, Sudan, and in the near future they were expected in Libya. In turn, the companies associated with Yevgeny Prigogine, Lobaye Invest and St. Petersburg LLC M Invest, received permission to mine gold, diamonds and other minerals in the CARs and Sudan.
Perhaps there is another reason why the plane Yevgeny Prigogine so often flies to Africa. According to data obtained by investigators of the Dossier project, in the fall of 2017 between the government structures of the Central African Republic and M Invest an agreement was reached (the full text is at the disposal of Novaya Gazeta) concerning the development of diamond deposits in the Upper Cotto prefecture. “The parties agreed that the Russian side has the right to make cash payments. According to the Central African side, the delivery of cash on hand is only possible on a private jet, ”the document says. The need to pay in cash is explained by the fact that "at the moment, all banks in the Central African Republic are making transfers through correspondent accounts in France, which prevents the Russian side from making bank transfers."
In August 2018, Le Monde sources reported that Prigogine flew a private plane to Khartoum (Sudan) to meet with leaders of Central African armed groups. Three days after this meeting, a message appeared on the Russian MFA website “On the negotiations in Khartoum on a settlement in the Central African Republic”, which announced the signing of the “Khartoum Declaration”, announcing “the creation of the Central African Union of the Opposition ". Among the signatories of the declaration were the leaders of "the largest armed groups, including organizations that were previously members of the alliance" Séléka "and" Antibalaka ".
On July 30, 2018, in the Central African Republic, Alexander Rastorguev, Orhan Jemal and Kirill Radchenko were killed during an investigation into the activities of the Wagner Group and interests in this country of Yevgeny Prigogine. According to the investigation of the Dossier project, the Central African gendarme could be involved in the murder of a group of journalists, who coordinated his actions with members of Prigogine’s structures.
At the same time, the Russian IC insists that the Russians were killed during a robbery.
And after the murder of journalists, the press service of Prigogine informed that the businessman “has no interests in military or civil projects in the Central African Republic, including gold deposits”.
Novaya Gazeta sent questions to Evgeny Prigogine on the official mail of the Concord group of companies. And one more mail ([email protected]), published in the VKontakte group under the name “Press service of the Concord company”. Last week, replies from various editions come to this address allegedly from Yevgeny Prigogine. Sends the answers and leads a group of some "Valeria Concorde", whose real identity can not be set by account. Journalists' questions and answers from Prigogine are published in the same group. Allegedly, Prigogine replied to Novaya Gazeta that he does not own or use the aircraft with the registration number M-VITO, he did not visit African countries, Lebanon and Syria, he cannot tell about his interests in these countries.
At the time of the preparation of the material for publication, M-VITO made another flight. From January 25 to January 30, this aircraft was in Africa, then returned to Moscow.