President Vladimir Putin ridiculed the US indictment of 13 Russians in a television interview broadcast late Monday, scoffing at the notion that a person described as his chef could interfere with a US presidential election, the AP reports. Special counsel Robert Mueller in February charged Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman dubbed "Putin's chef," and 12 others in an alleged conspiracy to meddle in the 2016 election using tactics that allegedly included running a huge social media campaign from their headquarters in St. Petersburg, dubbed the "troll farm." Putin dismissed the charges as "ridiculous" during an interview with Austrian public broadcaster ORF. "How low the Western information and political environment has fallen if a restaurateur from Russia could influence elections in the United States or a European country," the Russia leader said.
Prigozhin has been dubbed "Putin's chef" by Russian media because his restaurants and catering businesses have hosted the Kremlin leader's dinners with foreign dignitaries. Putin told ORF that the Russian government has no connection to Prigozhin's activities. When pressed further, he pointed to Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros, alleging that Soros meddles in the affairs of various nations while "our American friends often tell me that America has nothing to do with it." "Ask the (US) Department of State why he does it," Putin said. "The Department of State would tell you that it has no relation to that, it's Mr. Soros' private business. Well, here it's Mr. Prigozhin's private business." Asked about his interactions with US President Donald Trump, Putin said political infighting in Washington was hampering their contacts; recent reports have indicated a Trump-Putin summit is possible.
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