Tags: Middle East | Russia | Russia Probe | Syria | yevgeny prigozhin | bashar assad | vladimir putin

WaPo: Indicted Russian Contacted Assad Before Attack on US Troops

Image: WaPo: Indicted Russian Contacted Assad Before Attack on US Troops
Indicted Russian billionaire oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Thursday, 22 Feb 2018 09:17 PM

An indicted billionaire oligarch thought to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in touch with the Kremlin and Syrian officials ahead of the assault, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

According to the Post, citing intelligence reports, intercepted communications in late January show the oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official he had "secured permission" from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a "fast and strong" initiative that would take place in early February.

Prigozhin – indicted by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller for bankrolling and guiding a Russian scheme to conduct "information warfare" during the 2016 election — has close ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, the Post noted.

And among his various enterprises, U.S. intelligence believes Prigozhin also "almost certainly" controls Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad, the Post reported.

The February attack marked the biggest direct challenge to the U.S. military presence in eastern Syria since U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed there in 2015 to support of Syrian allies fight ISIS, the Post reported.

The Pentagon, in statements since the attack, has repeatedly said it is still investigating and has reached no conclusion on the identities of the attackers, the Post reported — the Kremlin has denied involvement.

The intercepted communications show not only was Prigozhin personally involved in planning the attack, but he had discussed it with senior Syrian officials, including Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Fadlallah Azzam, the Post reported.

The Post reported Jan. 30, Prigozhin "indicated he had a 'good surprise'" for Assad "that would come between 6 and 9 February." According to one intelligence report, he also was assured by Azzam he would be paid for his work, the Post reported.

The reports indicated an increased tempo of communications between Prigozhin and Kremlin officials during the same period, including Putin chief of staff Anton Vayno and deputy chief of staff Vladi­mir Ostrovenko, but the content of those talks is not known, the Post reported.

The communications continued until Feb. 5 and resumed the day after the attack, the Post reported.

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Indicted billionaire oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin was in touch with the Kremlin and Syrian officials ahead of an assault on U.S. troops and their allies in Syria, according to The Washington Post.
yevgeny prigozhin, bashar assad, vladimir putin, oligarch
Thursday, 22 Feb 2018 09:17 PM
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