Senators press EU to sanction Putin associate for election meddling

A group of Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday urged the European Union (EU) to sanction a top close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin for meddling in U.S. elections. 

The lawmakers sent a letter to Stavros Lambrinidis, the head of the Delegation of the EU to the U.S., urging the EU to “take steps to substantially increase economic pressure” on Yevgeny Prigozhin for his role in interfering in the 2016 and upcoming 2020 elections. 

Prigozhin, the leader and main source of funding behind Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), is known as Putin’s chef because his catering group has participated in official dinners Putin has hosted for foreign dignitaries.  

Both Prigozhin and the IRA were indicted by former special counsel Robert Mueller for spreading misinformation designed to benefit the campaign of now President Trump in the run-up to the 2016 elections. 

Prigozhin has also been linked to mercenary organization The Wagner Group, which was sanctioned by the U.S. due to its support of Russian forces in Ukraine. 

“We know that Mr Prigozhin and his associated firms remain actively engaged in spreading malign influence,” the senators wrote. “Given the broad reach and expanding nature of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group’s malign activities abroad, we urge the European Union to take steps to constrain their ability to operate and to deter the Kremlin from engaging in these activities.”

The top Democrats on the Senate Armed Services, Banking, Foreign Relations, and Intelligence Committees —Sens. Jack Reed (R.I.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bob Menendez (N.J.), and Mark Warner (Va.) respectively — also signed on to the letter. 

The senators called on the EU to stand “united” with the U.S. in taking measures to make life more difficult for Prigozhin. 

“The effectiveness of the U.S. sanctions regime is only as strong as our multilateral alliances,” the senators wrote. “Our ability to punish, deter, and put pressure on Prigozhin and respond forcefully to his malign behavior would be significantly enhanced by the active participation of the E.U.”

Following the 2016 elections, Facebook announced that almost 150 million American users had likely been exposed to Russian misinformation from the IRA around the elections. A recent study from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found evidence that the IRA began attempts to interfere in the 2020 elections last year.

Tags Bob Menendez Charles Schumer Donald Trump Jack Reed Mark Warner Robert Mueller Sherrod Brown Vladimir Putin

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